God's Searching Grace

Reading: Psalm 139.1-12,23-24
Do you have someone who seems to appear at the most inopportune moments? You have something else to do, or someone who needs your full attention at the moment. Perhaps you're just "peopled out" and looking for a break - a bit of peace and quiet. In our adult years we may not say it, but we still think, "Get lost!"

Suppose the unwelcome visitor is Jesus himself. That's not so unlikely, by the way - he has the habit of "turning up" at the most inconvenient times, when we least expect him or want him to be about.

What would we need to change at our place if Jesus came for a visit today? We would be "found out" well and truly!

Sadly, we sometimes want Jesus to "get lost" - to stay as an admired figure of the past who inspires us, as a teacher of note whose words are still meaningful to us, as a religious figure whose ideals still motivate us...

Oftentimes we want him to stay in the past. After all, two thousand years have passed. Humankind has grown up. We have a new understanding of reality. Using the simple law of "love," we can now re-interpret, bypass or even discard the old morality in a way that leaves us and our society more comfortable.

The old idea of redemption is a hang-over from slave-trading days. And "salvation" is too threatening - it suggests that many people are "lost." We need to re-work our message to be more accepting, affirming and inclusive.

One problem! The Jesus in whom we believe is more than a figure of history. The most doubting of his disciples called him, "My Lord and my God!" That was with the realisation that the Jesus who lived and died is alive from the dead. To view him merely as a figure of history whose words and works are on record for us is to miss the whole point. He's alive in 2002.

Have we left him knocking at the door and wished he would "get lost"? Would we prefer to be left alone to do our own thing with his final commissioning words? Is it preferable to be accountable to the courts of the Uniting Church in Australia than to be directly accountable to Jesus Christ himself?

The words of Psalm 139 were written centuries before Jesus came. As we read them, let's use them to reflect on a visit from the risen Lord Jesus himself -

David knew that the Lord's knowledge of him was complete, that God's searching is inescapable. The thought that the Lord knows him through and through is somewhat disturbing. Yet finally -

God already knows it all - "O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me" (v. 1). But these concluding verses express the openness of spirit that invites that "kind but searching glance" so that his life will be changed.

Today we still regard "confession" as liturgically proper. Yet both the Australian Hymn Book and the three volumes of Scripture in Song largely removed it from our singing. The closest the latter came was in the "spiritual warfare" songs - somewhat like "the devil made me do it" theme all over again.

Thankfully we are beginning to recover into our singing a little more of the sense of confession of sins. Hopefully in our lives also, a great deal more of the Lord Jesus who comes, not just to bless us - make us happy - but to disturb and renew and heal us - removing what is offensive and leading us in his way everlasting.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Devotions, Presbytery of North Queensland, 20 July 2002.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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