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God's Word on Sunday: God is present in so many ways

  • May 23, 2021

Most Holy Trinity, May 30 (Year B) Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

How do we know that God exists? For many, belief is difficult. Rationalism and scientism have taken their toll, and the actual awareness of God is lacking in many lives. But the ancient Israelites were in a different position: They had seen and experienced the mighty and wondrous deeds of God on their behalf.

How could anyone doubt God if they had been present during the exodus from Egypt and the journey through the wilderness? God defeated the armies of Egypt; God set the people free; and God provided food and water for them in the midst of a harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Even that was not enough, for the people frequently doubted and rebelled against God when they faced difficulties.

People have short memories regarding kindnesses and favours, but long memories for slights and resentments. Before entering the promised land, Moses exhorted the people to remember those many signs and wonders from God that had been given for their well-being and protection. This was an act of collective gratitude.

The very fact that they were poised to enter the promised land despite all odds was itself a miracle. Their experience was unique, and it put them at an advantage over any other nation and people. Only by keeping those many acts of mercy and power in mind would they be able to remain faithful and avoid the sins of infidelity and idolatry. The Old Testament records that they did not do so well at that; in fact, no better than we have.

Constancy is not a common human virtue. This is not just about the Israelites — it pertains to all of us. Ingratitude is a pernicious and all too common human failing. Even if we do not cease believing in God when we face difficulties, it is too easy to give in to despair or the conviction that we are alone and that God does not care.

Granted, our experience of God seldom matches the Hollywood-style experiences of Exodus and Numbers, but God is active in our lives just the same. We can call to mind the blessings we have received — people who appear at the right moment or circumstances that unexpectedly work in our favour, and the love that we have received from so many.

Gratitude changes everything — those who are grateful will finish life’s journey well aware that they have not been alone.

One of the greatest gifts and blessings for which we can be grateful is that of the Spirit. It is the Spirit alone that allows us to experience God personally and with awareness. Those living in the Spirit are aware in an experiential way that they are children of God.

With that awareness their lives can never be the same or ordinary again. And most of all, the Spirit frees us from bondage to fear and gives us a foretaste of the great inheritance that will be ours in Christ.

Before His departure, Jesus gave two assurances to His disciples. The first was that all authority in Heaven and on Earth had been given to Him. That should give us hope and courage. Whatever the world dishes out to us, ultimately Jesus is in full authority. Things might not move as quickly as we would like, but they will move.

As part of that authority, Jesus urged His followers to make disciples of all nations, teaching them everything He had taught them. There is always the warning that in order to make other people disciples we must be good disciples and worthy representatives of the faith ourselves.

This has not always been the case, but justice and holiness are essential parts of this great commission.

The second assurance is one that is sorely needed in our uncertain and frightening age.

Jesus promised that He would be with them — and us — until the end of the age. We experience the love, grace and care of God through the three persons of the Trinity.

The Israelites were witnesses to God’s power and might. Those who are filled with the Spirit are sanctified and bound to God the Father. All who call upon the name of Jesus walk through the challenges of life with Him at their side.

Who could ask for better support and care than this? God is alive and present in so many ways and places.