The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

A very personal God

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It’s possible to see the wonders of creation and acknowledge the existence of a Creator. The vastness of creation and the mystery of God can make us feel small and insignificant. We may find that we hold God at arm’s length as a result. However, Christians believe that God is a personal God and that in order to relate to us with understanding, he came in the person of Jesus Christ to live a human life and to die for us. The fact that God cares for each one of us so much that he is prepared to seek us out  is staggering but true.

The readings at the 2pm SLT service on Thursday were Psalm 8, Romans 14:7-12, Luke 15:1-10.

I woke this morning to a glorious day. As I looked out of my study window I could see blue sky with a moon shining in it. The sun was lighting up the golden leaves on the cherry trees. It was possible to really appreciate the beauty of creation, to understand why God looked at what he had made and declared it ‘good’.

Of course, humans were put in charge of the created world and commanded to tend it, but we really haven’t done a very good job. Maybe now we are beginning to wake up to what’s going on, but for centuries we have exploited creation without a thought given to the consequences. We have taken what we can for our own use and in the process have polluted the planet. Tragedies like the chemical waste at Bhopal in India, which is still causing misery to the inhabitants, and the death of endless sea life due to plastic waste, are some of the results of our profligate lifestyle, in the developed nations at least.

Another form of pollution is light pollution. Our cities and towns are a blaze of light when darkness falls. Light brings more safety for those moving around but it burns precious resources in order to create the electricity. Another effect is that we can no longer see the night sky well if we live in an urban area. Amateur astronomers complain about the difficulties caused by light pollution, but even if we are not interested in astronomy we are impoverished by this, perhaps without realising it. I remember one occasion when a group of families from our church went camping in the Derbyshire countryside. It was spring time so darkness came fairly early. It was a clear night, no clouds in the sky. One of our number is interested in astronomy and she started to point out various constellations and the Milky Way to the children there. Soon we all, adults and children alike, were staring at the sky. Without street lighting around it was ablaze with the light of stars. Every so often we saw a meteor shoot across the sky. It was so very beautiful and awe inspiring.

I wonder if you have stood and looked up into a starlit sky when you’ve been in the countryside. The vastness of the universe and the smallness of a single human being in it really hits home when you do that. I’m sure that David must have done the same many times as he watched over the sheep. He would have no problem with light pollution; at night, inky darkness was the norm. When we listen to Psalm 8 we can hear about his experience:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have ordained,
What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;
mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

David was amazed that, in a universe of millions of stars, God cared about puny human beings. It is incredible but true that God cares for us. Although it’s good to be able to acknowledge this and comforting to know that the Creator cares, it is possible to hold God at arm’s length due to the sheer immensity of him. We can acquiesce to the concept of a loving God, but if we call him King, Lord, and Creator – big concepts full of majesty and awe – it can be a way of maintaining our distance from him.

God has made sure that we can understand his love for each of us as an individual, not just for humans as a group. He chose to come to earth as a human being in the person of Jesus. God and humanity are forever linked because of that. No wonder the Jews found Jesus puzzling. He challenged their notion of God and gave it a personal touch. When Jesus told his parable about the lost sheep, he showed that the individual person is of huge value to God. The owner of a flock would count his wealth in terms of how many sheep he had. Losing one would be like losing money from the bank for us today. If God loses one of us, he has lost something of very great value and the effort needed to find each one again is well worthwhile. Just as the shepherd returned home rejoicing with his lost sheep, all of heaven rejoices when one of God’s children comes to faith. Just think, if you have turned from unbelief to belief, you have caused a party to be held in heaven! And if you haven’t yet made that decision, when you do, another party will take place.

Just to emphasise this concept of the great value of each person, Jesus told another parable about the woman and her coins. Each coin would have been equivalent to a day’s wages for a labourer, so would have taken a significant effort to earn. Finding the coin would not be easy as there were no windows in the house usually, hence the need for lighting a lamp. The earthen floor would have easily concealed a coin where it had rolled. It would have taken great care to find that coin and when it was found, again all gathered together to celebrate. As the woman shared her joy with her neighbours and friends, so God shares his joy with the whole company of heaven when a lost soul returns to him.

Even this wonderful understanding of our value to God can still allow us to miss the point of how personal God’s care is. We can nod in assent and still not let it touch us. Paul in his letter to the Romans makes it plain that this searching for lost sheep or sweeping for lost coins was not a cosy domestic scene played out by God. The way we are found is by Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ died and rose for you and for me, for each of us as individuals. There is no way to hold this kind of God at arm’s length. God as a man, suffered pain and humiliation for each one of us, dying the cruellest death ever designed.

Imagine knowing a person who is prepared to die for you, who actually does die for you. Members of the emergency services regularly risk and sometimes lose their lives to save others. Ordinary members of the public may step in to protect someone from attack or accident and lose their lives. A parent may give their life for their child. Having that happen to you would make a lasting impact on the rest of your life. Such events are rare and would not affect many people, though.

Jesus’ death affects us all. It rescues each of us from eternal separation from God if we choose to accept it. God can’t get much more personal in his care than that. This is the love God has for each of us demonstrated in action.

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;
mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

Helene Milena – Lay Pastor

Author: Helene Milena

Lay Pastor of the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life. Teacher, counsellor, wife, mother and grandmother.

One thought on “A very personal God

  1. I like to read this stuff.. if helps me understand my own decisions better. It’s just good to know someone else is thinking the same things.

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