Restlessness

Author: 
Revd. Heather
Date: 
Sunday, May 17, 2020 - 9:30am

Collect

God our redeemer,

you have delivered us from the power of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:

grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,

so by his continual presence in us he may raise us

to eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

 

Readings

Acts 17:22-31

John 14:15-21

 

Reflection

It’s so hard being thrown out of our comfort zone, having to change and adapt. Over the past couple of months we’ve been finding new ways of communicating and for many of us technology has come to the fore. At the beginning of this year I had rarely taken part in a multi person video call, now it happens almost daily. This week, I’ve been to meetings, a drinks evening with friends, clergy training, a family quiz, and the St Mary’s Camp Out, all by the power of Zoom! And all these meetings online take a little getting used to. We can’t quite interact in the same way as we do in person – the time delay of the internet being perhaps the biggest obstacle, but it’s also a little harder too to read one another’s social cues.

When I reflect on the challenges of adapting to new cultures, I find myself full of admiration for St Paul. He doesn’t always get great press in the church: some of his quotes taken out of context don’t come across well today. But there’s something amazing about St Paul: the way that he travelled around Asia Minor, crossing country borders, adapting to new cultures, to share the Good News of the Love of God, revealed in Christ Jesus. 

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, he has come to Athens (having been driven out of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea) and now finds himself in ancient Greece, a place of philosophy, of great religiosity and worship of many deities in the pantheon. And it is into this context, he speaks the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul senses their deep sense of religion, yet sees within in a restlessness. They have dedicated an altar ‘To an unknown God.’ 

It’s a complicated relationship that the Athenians have with God. They recognise and honour God, but yet do not know God. And it is into this searching for God, this restlessness, that Paul is able to speak, to encourage them that they can and do know God, for it is in God ‘that we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28). In God: Paul emphasises just how close we are to our creator, we are united with God. 

It is just that, like the Athenians, we do not always realise that. We sometimes forget just how close God is to us. We find ourselves looking elsewhere for God – looking for hope in the experiences that the world offers, in work, in money – and what it can buy. 

But yet our hearts can still be restless, searching for something more. It is a restlessness that people have experienced throughout the ages, St Augustine in the fourth century prays in his confessions: ‘You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.’ Later, in the 17th Century, Pascal wrote of an ‘infinite abyss’ within the soul of every person that only God can fill. Today, we hear that one in four people are tuning into worship – welcome – we too are searching for something more; to welcome God to fill that emptiness we face. And in our Gospel reading today, we are promised by Jesus in his farewell discourse, that God will send to all who search, to all who love God, another Advocate to be with us forever. 

Jesus promises that God will send the Holy Spirit to be with us, to abide within us, to be with us in all that we face. Times at the moment are not always easy. We are thrown out of our comfort zones, we are not able to see all those who we love, we find any routine and rhythm we had to life is thrown out of the window, we are living with uncertainty and we face difficult choices about managing risk. 

Yet in all of this God promises to be with us. To be our comforter, to be our guide, to be our hope. For God did not promise that life would always be easy; God promises that whatever we face, God will be with us. And so, as we find ourselves, and the church – needing to change and adapt – I pray that we will all know God’s presence with us, filling our hearts with hope and love. Amen.