Where is God Hiding?

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Where is God Hiding?
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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A few years ago, I had taken some advice to replace my office chair with a medicine ball so settled down with a snack to write a sermon. I was stumped for a new example for of how God is present in surprising ways. While I was deep in thought, the phone rang. Startled, I got up a little fast; the ball moved. I suddenly found myself flying up in the air, landing on my back, popcorn all over the floor and grape juice spattered over my white carpet. Splayed out like a crime victim, I mentally checked my limbs to see if anything was broken – I seemed to hit every piece of furniture in the room as I went down. I asked myself, lying on my back, ‘where is God in this mess?’

As I scrubbed stain remover into grape juice blotches and picked up popcorn, I figured it out. God isn’t in every situation. In fact often God appears to be hidden.

Sometimes we think we find God in the beauty of a sunset; sometimes we think we find God in the bounty of nature. And sometimes we can’t seem to find God at all.

And it is in those times that we should think of this parable of Jesus Matthew 25.31-46. This is one of the most famous parables of Jesus, but it is not one of the all time favourites. This story is about the end of the world is more acidic, painful and stinging than many of Jesus’ stories

The disciples had asked Jesus, “What is it going to be like at the end of the world?” Jesus replied,

“It will be like this. There will be a king up in heaven and all the people of the earth will gather around him, and this king will divide the people into the sheep and the goats.”

Now, if you were a disciple in those days, you understood this metaphor immediately. At night, when the shepherds came down from the hills into the valleys, they would divide the sheep for the sheep pen and the goats for the goat pen. Last week news hit that a farmer in Ireland didn’t separate the sheep and the goats so now he has a geep on his hands. The shepherds of Jesus’ time knew what they were doing.

“The sheep will be on my right, and the king will say to them, ‘Come into my party. I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ But the sheep said, ‘When did we ever do these things for you?’

The king replied, ‘Whenever you did these things for the littlest people, you did it for me.”

Then the king addressed the goats on the left. ‘Depart from me into eternal damnation. I was starving and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. I was lacking clothing and you did not clothe me. I was in prison and you did not visit me.’

They said, ‘Lord, if we only would have known it was you, we would have treated you differently. If we only had known your true identity, it would have made all the difference. If we had only known it was your face behind the face of the refugees; if we had only known it was your body in the infirmary; if we had only known it was your family living below subsistence level in the north; if we had only known it was you, it would have made all the difference.’ Jesus said, “Not good enough.”

One of the first lessons that grows out of this parable is the awareness that our God, the true God, the one God, who created the universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead; that our true God is a hidden God who hides most completely in the faces and places of suffering.

God hides in the midst of suffering. The place that our God hides is in the water of baptism, the bread and cup of communion, but the primary place is in the cross. No other God in the whole wide world gets himself crucified. When our God is crucified, our God is the most hidden. When our God is being crucified today, God is the most hidden.

But the story doesn’t stop there: the real lesson of this parable today is an invitation for you and me to seek God. To seek God where God is found. Not in the beauty of the sunsets or the birth of babies or the bounty of nature. Not to find God in the obvious places and conclude that there is a God. The real lesson of this parable is to seek God where God is to be found hiding behind the faces and places of suffering people.

Why does Jesus deserve to be the reason for the season?

“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Heather Donaldson says:

    One of my favourite ever of your essays, Morar. Quintessentially you – clear and oh so loving.

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