When I was a student, I spent a number of my vacations working in Christian camps for teenagers. One early and particularly cold Easter, we were based in an old castle in Northumbria, miles from anywhere. Midweek, we travelled to Hexham to play a wide game in the morning and go swimming in the afternoon.
In the wide game, the kids had to search the town centre for leaders in disguise. When they found them, they exchanged an agreed question and answer and the leader signed their sheet. The person who found the most leaders in the agreed time won.
Adrian dressed up as a nun and wandered the grounds of Hexham Abbey. Jane became a fake tour guide complete with raised umbrella and megaphone, Paul a vicar, Jessie a juggling clown. John wore a dress suit and persuaded a local furniture shop to let him become a shop window dummy. Lacking the imagination or funds for such costumes, I simply went jogging in the local park in my track suit.
I was the only leader not to be found.
My pursuers were looking for something different, something more obvious, something that stood out in a weird or unusual way. Not something typical that looked like it belonged in the setting.
I sometimes wonder if our expectations of God can be like that?
We assume Him to be completely out of the ordinary. We presume He acts only by overruling the laws of nature. We hope for Him to speak unequivocally to us; an invisible booming voice and words written in fireworks across the sky. After all, isn’t He God?
It’s an age old attitude. The Athenians in St Pauls’ day had shrines to numerous Greek goods – and if you’ve read the Greek myths, you’ll be familiar with their outrageous antics: turning humans into animals or trees, withering all plant life at the loss of a daughter, driving a man so mad he murders his children, demanding human sacrifice.
But Paul describes to them the god of another of their shrines, a completely different kind of god, The God Nobody Knows:
“He made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find Him. He doesn’t play hide and seek with us. He’s not remote; He’s near. We live and move in Him, can’t get away from Him!” (Acts 17.24-29 The Message)
Maybe that’s why God turned up in Jesus. God wants to be found. Jesus Himself said it:
“Ask and you’ll get; seek and you’ll find; knock and the door will open.” (Luke 11.9 The Message)
It’s like those Where’s Wally/Waldo pictures – God’s in plain sight.
If only we look.
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