How We Know It is God
#HowWeKnowItIsGod is the podcast for May 26, 2019, The 6th Sunday of Easter. What does God really want? Why does it seem so complicated? Answers are here. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John14 #KnowGod #Personalist #GodAsPerson #Home #Joshua #Signs
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/26/2019 The 5th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 14:23-29.
How can we tell when something happens if it is God working in our lives or not?
There is a family in a town where I used to serve as pastor when I was a Methodist minister. The father of the house was a prayer partner of mine. We met at the pre-school our daughters attended and we hit it off. We were two men in a small Indiana town who didn’t just go to church, we centered our lives around Jesus Christ. There is a difference. All of us are at different stages of faith. My job is to draw people deeper into their faith, but his man, he was already there and helped me.
We went to his house, where his wife had the whole place set up so that it was clear that God was the center. The Father, their Creator; the Son, their Savior; the Holy Spirit, their Guide and Sustenance through every day was front and center. There was a single scripture verse, tastefully and decoratively painted on the wall. There were crosses and devotional books for the different ages of children. Their manner of speech often talked about the Lord and what the children heard the Lord say and what they knew the Lord would celebrate. There were charts on the fridge that had among the list of things to do, “read the Bible and pray”. They talked about God openly, as if he were standing right there. They prayed together as a family. The verse on the wall? It was from Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It was evident that they did.
It is obvious they loved the Lord because they kept his commandments. Activities and decisions were filtered through the prism of whether the Lord would want this or not. Could mercy be extended or does this need to be a strict keeping of the law, yet still lived with kindness toward all? Was their motivation to please God and love the neighbor or was it to exploit others and serve the self? Who had a need and how could it be served so that the Lord would be praised? They were not perfect. Their perfection was in acknowledging that they were not perfect. Their perfection was in allowing for people to make mistakes and be redeemed.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John for today, “if someone loves me, they will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” God will make his home with us. That means a lot of things. When you live with someone, you know whether or not they get toothpaste all over the sink after brushing their teeth. You know whether or not they leave the dirty laundry on the floor or they put it in the hamper. You know whether they say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or not. You know what their favorites are: food, TV show, order of getting ready in the morning, etc. Yet, what you find out more than anything else is what they want, how they think, feel, live and breathe.
So, when someone loves the Lord, he comes and makes an intimate and all-encompassing relationship: he makes a home with us. What is important is that he is not an uninvited guest. He must be invited. We must invite him. God is no imposer. Yet, what is most important to know in all of this is that God is not a concept. He is not an idea. He is a person, a being, with will and intellect. So, when my friends from that small Indiana town treat God as if he is there, it is because he is there. He is the head of the family.
We love him and he is our benevolent, albeit demanding, Father. He is patient, kind, yet principled. So, mercy is not for licentiousness. Mercy is to repair the mistakes we make. We know that, because we know the living God. We know using violence to harm those who sin or deny God is wrong. We know lying is wrong. We know adultery is wrong. We know that those who are in the midst of sin need mercy, not judgment. How do we know? We know because it is how the Lord treated us.
The 10 Commandments are not null and void because Jesus came. They are in full force. Yet, they are not to be used to lord over people. There is but one Lord-uh-that is the First Commandment. We know it is of the Lord in our life if it moves us toward faithfulness. That voice of the Holy Spirit is the one that wants us to go to church every Sunday, to tithe, wants us to pray every day, wants us to be honest in our business dealings, wants us to love our neighbor as we would want to be loved. In short, it is of God when it places God at the center of our life.
We know events in our life are of God when they are like a person is interacting with us rather than a dry text of hard inflexible rules to be used to diminish a person. Wisdom is always at play because God himself is Wisdom. He is the Word, the Logos, the plan of the universe made flesh and we ingest him every week.
It is of God when it is like the God we know when we invite him to be the center of our lives. We can go to church for years, or intermittently, or at Christmas and Easter, and not really know God. We know about God. We make judgments about God from thinking we know him when we don’t. That is when we go wrong.
Only those who invite him into their lives and with whom he makes a home know him. How can you know someone when you don’t live with them? It is good to be God’s acquaintance. It is even better to be his friend, his lover, his apostle, his disciple, his missionary.
We know things are from God when others think it is just a happenstance. My favorite example of this I have mentioned before is about my parishioner Georgia Morris, who is praying for us in heaven. When she was going into the hospital, from where she did not return home, it was rough. She had been poked and pricked so many times that they could not find a good vein to start the last, and deadly, chemo treatment. The attending nurse couldn’t find it and they had to call in a specialist after the charge nurse couldn’t find a vein. By that time, I had arrived and was praying with her and talking with her. I stepped behind the nurse who was the last hope, and I started praying. I could see Georgia, and she started praying. I was praying that the nurse could find the vein. I closed my eyes and told the Lord I knew he could lead the nurse and that is when she said, “Oh, my! There it is! Got it!”
Georgia looked up at me, smiled, and winked. When the nurse left, we just laughed. We knew. We knew it was the Lord who got the IV connected. We knew, because we know God saves lives through medicine. Christians were some of the first nurses and created the whole concept of nursing, as Christian service-see Florence Nightengale. The nurse did not know it was God, but Georgia and I knew because we know him.
Even in death, because she knew the Lord and made a home with him, Georgia had no worries. She simply told the line of people from the Cursillo Community who lined up down the hospital hallway and around the corner to say good bye, “I will see you there.”
Have you made Jesus the center of your life? Is God your first priority? Have you told God that you love him and you want all your love to flow from Him? Do you ignore his presence in your life or do you welcome him and let him make a home with you? Do you ask, “what do you want me to do, Lord?” about even the smallest things? Are you reading his Scriptures, praying regularly, and taking him on your lips every Sunday? Do you treat him like he is a person who laughs, hears, answers?
We know it is God or not God when we enter into a relationship and truly know Him: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God in our one home. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian