Monday, February 06, 2006

Dear God Where Are You?

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for January 12, 2006 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Dear God, Where Are You?

The human search for God is as old as time. It appears that God keeps showing up and then strangely disappearing. Our best information we have about that is from Jesus.
In the parable of the judging shepherd in Matthew 25, Jesus promises to reveal himself in the pain and suffering of needy people. That is where most of us least expect to find God. Here Jesus says that we will find God in: the desperation of the sick; the pangs of the hungry; the exposure of the naked; the loneliness of the stranger; and the self-defeatedness of the prisoner.
Here are two illustrations of the truth of Jesus’ teaching.

There is a legend about Martin of Tours who is said to be the first military chaplain. He followed the Roman Army from place to place ministering to the soldiers, and to people in the places they conquered. One cold winter day he was following the Roman Army into a city. There was a beggar at the gates of the city asking for alms. Martin had been in the field with the soldiers for weeks. He had neither coin nor crust of bread. So, he took off the battered old Roman soldier’s cloak he had over his shoulders and, with his sword, cut it into two pieces. One-half of the cloak he gave to the beggar and the other half he kept for himself.

That night Martin had a dream in which he found himself to be an observer of a scene in heaven. He saw Jesus surrounded by a group of angels, and to his surprise the Lord Jesus was wearing the half of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels asked Jesus, "Master, where did you get that old dirty and torn half of a Roman soldier’s cloak?" And, soft in the silence, he heard Jesus say, "My good servant Martin gave it to me." If you have done it to one of the least of these, my little ones, you have done it unto me, said Jesus.

Not only do we see that Jesus appeared at the points of human need in history, you will find this to be true today. Try and see. Recently I read a newspaper reporter’s account of an experience he had as he watched a distribution of food at a mission. These are his words. "The line was long but moving briskly and in that line, at the very end stood a young girl about twelve years of age. She waited patiently as those at the front of that long line received a little rice, some canned goods, or a little fruit. Slowly but surely she was getting closer to the front of the line – closer to the food. From time to time she would glance across the street. She did not notice the growing concern on the faces of those distributing the food. The food was running out. Their anxiety began to show but she did not notice. Her attention seemed always to focus on three figures under the trees across the street. At long last she stepped forward to get her food but the only thing left was one lonely banana. The workers were almost ashamed to tell her that was the only thing left. She did not seem to mind. In fact, she seemed genuinely happy to get that solitary banana. Quietly, she took the precious gift and ran across the street where three small children waited – perhaps her sisters and a brother. Very deliberately she peeled the banana and very carefully divided the banana into three equal parts, placing the precious food in the eager hands of those three younger ones. One for you, one for you, and one for you. She then sat down and licked the inside of that banana peel.

Then the reporter said, "I swear I saw the face of God."

Are you looking for God? Perhaps you have been looking in all the wrong places.

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