Dear Church Family,
'God is for all' - Surprisingly that includes You! And even more surprisingly Me!!
Way back in the third and fourth centuries there began a major Christian spiritual movement of hermits, ascetics, and monks known as Desert Fathers (along with Desert Mothers) who were inspired by the wanderings in the desert of the Old Testament characters. One of the famous stories from the Desert Fathers is that of an old man living in the desert who served God for many years who prayed, ‘Lord, let me know if I have pleased you.’ He saw an angel who said to him, ‘You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such a place.’ The old man marvelled and said, ‘I will go off to the city to see both him and what it is that he does that surpasses all my work and toil of all these years.’….
So he went to the city and asked the gardener about his way of life…. When they were getting ready to eat in the evening, the old man heard people in the streets singing songs, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, ‘Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?'
The gardener said, ‘I tell you, Abba, I have never been troubled or scandalised.’ When he heard this, the old man said, ‘What, then, do you think in your heart when you hear these things?’ And he replied, ‘That they are all going into the Kingdom.’ ‘When he heard this, the old man marvelled and said, ‘This is the practice which surpasses my labour of all these years.’
‘I have never been troubled or scandalised, for they are all going into the kingdom’. The gardener was lifting his vision beyond what his human senses were experiencing to the greater glory of God. And just like that fourth-century gardener, we too can raise our vision; raise it beyond the limit of human language, beyond the day to day challenges of life remembering that ‘God is for all’, in that way others may catch a glimpse through us of the love of God and they may be able to say ‘This is the practice that surpasses my labour of all these years’.
Of course, sometimes in life, the challenges we face make it hard to lift our vision above the day to day problems we face, and for many, the last four or so months have been an exceptional challenge, but it is particularly at these times we should remind ourselves that 'God is for all' which includes us! It is easy to forget that we are created in the image of God and that as his creation He desires only good things for us. In Matthew's Gospel chapter 6. v 31 - 34 Jesus say's "...do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'what will we drink?' or 'what will we wear?'......your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Just like the old man in my story above who lived in the desert for many years, who served God and who prayed, ‘Lord, let me know if I have pleased you.’ we too can wonder (or worry) if we are doing things 'right' (especially when it comes to anything to do with God!) but it is especially at times like these that we can be thankful that we have the freedom to receive the gift of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - because 'God is for all'.