Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Faith makes every place a Bethel

On Sunday I was with a church without a building.  The people I met, in the school where we gathered for worship, were full of hope for the future. There was a vision and a heart for mission and outreach, and an energy that was uplifting and encouraging. Yet emotions ran close to the surface, even erupting at times.  For some, the pain of losing ‘their’ building was still raw.

This morning, as I had my cup of tea in bed (spoilt I know!) I was reading Paul Chilcote’s Her Own Story.  A letter from Ann Ray to Elizabeth Hurrell, written in 1769, struck me with the freshness of ‘now’.
‘His presence [is] in you, around you, wherever you are, at every time and place. Believe him in you, near you. He is, you know, “bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh”; yea, nearer than that by far, for “he that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit with him”. Think of his immediate presence as often as you can. Speak to him in the simplest manner possible as frequently as you can. Tell him all you want, all you can do, or cannot do; but, tell it as to a present God, a present Friend who is able and willing to help you. Do not behold him afar off, in heaven only. He is here upon earth, or rather earth and all things are in him … Faith makes every place a Bethel.’

Jacob set up a stone to mark the place where he had experienced the presence of God, and called it ‘Bethel’. In the 19th century people built chapels and called them ‘Bethel’, as a sign of rejoicing and prayer that God would be in that place.
Unlike Jacob, we have the glorious gift of a living relationship with God through the risen Jesus.  We can experience his presence in a new way.  Jesus bursts open the spaces in which we try to enclose him. 

Faith makes every place a Bethel.

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