Not Far From Any One Of Us

dsc_0109c-smllr

It was a sunny afternoon last November and I was walking through Westminster in central London, when I passed a typically British, red telephone box. Leading up to it was a queue of around twenty people all patiently waiting their turn to enter! Even before mobile phones were invented and home phones were commonplace, a queue of twenty people for a phone box was quite rare. Those waiting for this phone box however, were not waiting to make a call; they were tourists waiting to have their photo taken while they hung out of the door of an icon of Twentieth-Century British design.

I must admit I am a fan of these scarlet symbols of our culture. Yet I fully understand why so many are being removed from our streets. Why go into a phone box to make a call when you can make one from anywhere on a mobile phone – as long as there’s a signal! One estimate suggests that 90% of the British population will own a mobile phone in 2017, making phone boxes of whatever colour almost obsolete.

I regularly have the privilege of meeting many spiritual people, who follow various paths and have wide-ranging beliefs. Even though their spiritual path may be far removed from Christianity, many of them will visit a church occasionally during the week seeking peace and solitude, and some go there specifically to pray. There’s something about a church building, whether ancient or modern, that gives one a sense of the Divine, a closeness to God, a place where you can almost breathe in God’s presence.

But … like our antiquated phone boxes, there is no need to find an empty church to pray in. We can speak with God wherever we are – He is always listening. Neither do we need fancy words – He already knows what’s on our mind and in our hearts.

Church buildings are great examples of “thin places”, i.e. places where it feels that our Creator is within touching distance. Or as Eric Weiner puts it, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses,” (from Man Seeks God by Eric Weiner). Yet we can also make our own thin places by choosing a favourite spot to meet with God each day, whether that be a corner of the garden or a comfortable armchair, simply a place where you can be alone with Him. In his book Eric Weiner describes how he travelled to many countries and tried many religions in an attempt to find God, but the truth is that God can be found right where you are. As an ancient rabbi once said,

“He is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:27 (NIVUK)

 

 

Who Are You Talking To?

shutterstock_521607922a

Have you ever spoken to royalty without knowing it? Sounds unlikely doesn’t it? Surely you’d know, especially if it was one of the more prominent royals.

Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Zaqia Crawford, originally from the USA, but currently selling Christmas trees in Battersea Park, south London, served a very special couple last night (Monday 12th Dec): the lady she was serving also happened to be from the USA, but the gentleman, wearing a woolly hat, was British. Zaqia had no idea who they were, but her colleagues, who were busy with another tree at first, eventually realised that Zaqia’s customers were none other than Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle. Prince Harry lives about two miles from Battersea Park, across the River Thames at Kensington Palace.

Whatever their spiritual path or religion, many people find themselves talking to God while going about their daily lives. Others only cry out to God in extreme circumstances. Some never talk to God, but admit wanting to have someone to say thank you to, maybe for a beautiful sunset or the birth of a baby. That desire to communicate with someone greater, someone beyond this world seems to be in-built within our human frame.

So, who then are we talking to; whether we treat that spiritual being as a listening ear, a last resort or a complete ‘no-no’? He – although God is neither male nor female – is the eternal Creator of all we see and more. His power is unlimited, yet to Him, we are valuable. He really is that listening ear and far more than a last resort. He is the King of Kings, to whom one day every knee will bow, and yet He cares for you.

Prince Harry didn’t send a servant. Neither did he flaunt his royal status. Instead of a crown, he wore a woolly hat. God did the same that first Christmas. He didn’t send an angel, He came Himself. He didn’t flaunt His divinity; He clothed Himself in a human body, and lived here for over thirty years as one of us. As Paul, a First Century rabbi, wrote:

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT)