by. Rev. Doug Fray
Do you remember wanting to see God? One of the things I love about Vacation Bible School is that, it reminds me how I used to see the world with child-like wonder and curiosity. Every week, sometimes every day child comes up to me and asks, “Why can’t I see God?” I think many of us have wanted to see God. Many of us wish we were closer to God. This fall I’m reading a book by Laura Winner, called Wearing God. She’s an Episcopal priest and she talks about realizing that the Bible had tons of images of God, but that she only usually heard about a few. So let me ask you to take a moment and write down some of the images you have of God. If you don’t like writing things down, just make a mental list. Go ahead and take a moment. What images do you have of God?
What I like is that once you started going, it got easier, right? One of the things I find interesting is that some of the images I realized I had of God were how I thought God should be. This fall we are going to spend time trying to see God not as we want to see God, but exploring God’s Word to find out how God wants to be understood. Which brings us to Philip who also wants to see God. So what does Jesus have to say? Is seeing God something that just happens or is it something we can learn? Is there a right or wrong way to know God?
Jesus’ first response is kind of, “Are you kidding me, Philip? We’ve been together all this time and you still ask me that question?” When I was a junior in high school my parents “made me” go to a leadership camp. It changed my life. Every day they would bring in speakers—astronauts and entrepreneurs, basketball players and politicians—to talk about leadership and success. One day the speaker was one of the key reporters for NBC News. He talked about the importance of doing what’s right even if it’s hard. During the question and answer, I asked something like, “How do we know what the moral thing is?” I will never forget that he looked me in the eye, and I think in that moment he knew about all the rationalization and self-deception I was doing at the time. He looked me in the eye and he said, “You know. You know.” I wonder if that’s true for a lot of us and for Philip, when something is right, really right, doesn’t something leap up in us? Jesus is surprised that Philip can ask that question when Philip has seen and heard Jesus, and I wonder if we asked Jesus that question, would Jesus say to us, “See God? Are you kidding? Don’t you remember when I was there with you? Don’t you remember that thing that happened? Don’t you remember when your heart was so full, you didn’t know if you were going to laugh or cry, or do all of them at the same time?” When we want to see God, perhaps we realize we already have, over and over.
Jesus’ second response is to say in effect, “What I say and what I do are God living in me, working through me.” That is integrity. You don’t have to believe in Jesus first. Look what He did. Look at how Jesus did it. I am astounded how what Jesus says and what Jesus does are in line with His understanding of God…so much so that I am persuaded no one has ever lived as beautifully and lovingly. In those words, I realize how very far I have to go in my life with God. How about you? Can you say what Jesus says: “What I say and what I do are God living in me, working through me…”? But have you ever met someone who is farther down the path with Jesus? Have you ever known someone who was so full of love it seemed to ooze out of their pores, and in their glow we experienced healing and hope, wholeness and heart? Have you ever known someone who did an insanely, beautifully loving act, though it cost them dearly? I’ve met a few, some of them in this fellowship. When I am with them, I have a sense that God is living in them, working through them. In fact, the reason this church is the hope of Squantum, is that when we get it right, people can see God clearly living in us, working in us.
The story is told that a Sunday School teacher gave each of her students a piece of paper and told them they could draw whatever they wanted. All the students were busy drawing, but one little girl was particularly focused and animated as she drew. The teacher asked her, “What are you trying to draw?” The little girl didn’t look up. “I’m drawing God,” she said. The teacher smiled and said, “But honey, no one knows what God looks like.” “Well, they will when I’m done!” I would love to see what that little girl drew, wouldn’t you? In fact, we could each draw our own pictures of God, and they would perhaps help us know God better. But in the end, we don’t want to just copy each other’s pictures, we want to look to the original—to God who really loves and to Jesus who lived and laughed and died and lives again. What we long for is what Jesus had—living with such integrity that what God wanted was what Jesus did. The surprising answers Jesus gives—that we may have seen God already, and watching loving action will teach us about God—are just the tip of the iceberg. We pray, as Phillip did, “Just show us the Father.” Let us begin the adventure together.