I have just finished a rather good book I got for Christmas called “Revelation Road”. It is a book by one of my favourite authors who attempts to unravel the book of Revelations, and to make some sense of it. The author, Nick Page, decided that he would visit the towns of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelations and also spend some time in the island of Patmos, listening to local people, talking to the monks who live the monastery built on the site where legend has it that Revelation was authored. The main idea behind this seeming extreme way of looking at a book was to get to know the environment, some of which on Patmos has possibly remained virtually untouched. As an aside, it seems that the author wasn’t John the Apostle, but another John, John the elder – something for another day.
The bottom line message appears to be that when stuck in bad times, we need to hold on to the truth that all bad times are temporary, even though when we are in them they never seem to be like that. We need to remember that God is in charge, does reign and that in the fullness of time all will come good.
Needless to say, I have been thinking how this might dovetail with our readings this morning, especially since I am not explicitly preaching from Revelations!
Psalm 139 is relatively well known within Christian circles, and has often been interpreted in such a way that God is shown as having planned and micro-managed, well, just about everything. However, it may be surprising for you to hear that there is quite a debate amongst academics that the psalm as we know it today may well have been a blending together of two separate psalms. What is certain is that it tells us that there is no hiding place from God. There is no point in us running away like Jonah did when he ran away to Tarshish instead of going to Nineveh. Mostly due to the fact that God is everywhere. He knows our deeds and our thoughts, not to mention our desires. We might be tempted to be fearful of this – we all strive to protect our privacy don’t we – and who would really wish someone else to know all about them. I think that this is why we tend to approach this notion of God with some concern and if we are honest possibly sometimes distrust. However, the psalmist tells us that this is the way it is In other words, it doesn’t really matter whether we like it or not, God knows everything. God knows us with an intimacy that we cannot really comprehend. God wants to share with us his very nature, simply because that is how it should have been since the beginning. And this is the important bit, God is not doing this like our version of a boss who seeks to find out our weakest areas in order to score points over us. This isn’t some Lord Sugar in the boardroom thing. Instead, God comes as a saviour, throwing light into any dark and hidden corner of our lives – the dank dark places where mould or rot has taken root and seeks to heal them. God reaches into our very centre and heal us. To fill us with the light, the true light that comes from God. The light we see in Jesus.
In Corinthians, Paul speaks about this level of intimacy when he writes, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”. And of course to highlight this point, Paul counterpoints this by talking about sexual immorality. This is partly because of the relative normality of sexual excess in 1st Century aristocracy. Paul is reminding the people in Corinth that they have been given a huge freedom, given at a great price by Jesus, but that with this freedom comes an appropriate level of responsibility. This message is just as relevant to us now as it was to the people of Corinth in the 1st Century. To put it bluntly, our actions have consequences.
I think that one of the reasons that Paul choose to talk about sexuality is his concern for the power that strong emotions have over people, which he echoes in the next Chapter. The sexual imperative is an example of a basic human need for intimacy, one that is extremely powerful. There is, of course, a range of other strong and powerful emotions. I wonder what other ones you can think of? Well there is our sense of pride or a sense of our own importance, an enjoyment of food, our concern over other people’s attainment, our wish to rest and relax, our wish to get more, and our sense of injustice. All emotions that can drive positive behaviour, however isn’t it interesting that these self same areas which so often drive our actions when taken to extremes became no less that the seven deadly sins of Lust, pride, gluttony, envy, anger, greed and sloth. So you can see why Paul argues for caution against an excess of emotion.
At the heart of at least some of these needs is the need to convince ourselves that we are worthy of being loved. The danger is that if we try and do this on our own, we nearly always tend to warp things and a need becomes an obsession whish throws things right out of balance. If we can get round our fear that God, in some way, wants to hurt or embarrass us, then we could reach out and start to enjoy real intimacy. A relationship with God that fills our basic and every need. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need food, money or sex, but what intimacy with God does for us is to stop the need from becoming a want – and we humans are very good at making our wants become an “I want more”
God is calling out to you to embrace you as his children. Cast aside any uncertainties you may have, or think you have, any worries for your future or your suitability. Know that everything here is temporary. Seek then the arms of God who will walk with you in the same way that he walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. A time when there were no secrets, no hiding places and God and humankind talked openly with each other. Will you take him up on this offer?
God is asking. Will you answer?
In Jesus Name