From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:16-18)
When Seth first started playing soccer, he followed the ball very well. He was even, right from the start, able to anticipate where the ball was going and position himself accordingly.
But he didn’t want to touch the ball. He let someone else do that.
As most 5-year-olds do when they begin playing the sport, all the players tend to surround the ball en mass and follow the ball around on the field like a flock of birds until someone kicks it in any direction, and the flock moves there.
But Seth always remained on the outside of that group. He kept his feet moving to be sure — circling the ball, dancing around it, following it carefully — but never actually touching it.
Eventually, as Seth continued to grow and play soccer season after season, he also grew to love the sport. Over time he learned to be a little bit more assertive with the ball and approach it confidently. He’s evolved into a very good soccer player.
Eventually, he just wanted the ball. Despite the risk. Despite the struggle that would ensue with a competitor. Above all, every good player wants the ball — that goes without saying.
And yet I wonder about how we approach our God. Do we play it too safe? Do we acknowledge our innate desire for God? And if not, why not? Is it because we cannot see God? What are we waiting for?
Admittedly, it is easier to stay on the outside, and just watch. We’ll let others do it for us. Maybe they’ve done a better job figuring out God.
Yet, scripture is clear that no one has seen God. On Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments, even Moses had to turn away in the presence of God (Exodus 33:20-23). No one has all the answers about God. No one has God figured out. As much as we may want there to be, there are no easy answers to life’s tough questions.
Even though we have the Law, it is not enough. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The only thing anyone of us can do is to approach the heart of God, to come near. John’s Gospel suggests that the only way we can know God is in relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ reflects the heart of God. Being close to Jesus, then, we are close to God.
The young boy-child Jesus instinctively knew that to know his heavenly Father he had to be close to Him. And the one place in ancient Israel known to contain the holy presence of God – the temple in Jerusalem. One of the first things Jesus does as a growing individual is to desire his Father’s house, the temple.
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
The best anyone of us can do is come close. Because what is most important in life cannot be measured, quantified, analyzed. God cannot be rationalized away by doctrinal statements, creeds and stated opinion.
God can only be experienced. The boy Jesus had to experience his Father’s house. Be there. Even if it meant disobeying his parents and breaking the law.
Being bold in coming close to Jesus means being bold in approaching our lives. Not being reckless nor irresponsible. But being bold – reaching out to strangers, taking risks of faith, addressing the issues of your life with honesty and truth and action, not giving up.
And when we are close to Jesus – as in the Holy Communion, or in the fellowship of the church, in loving service of the world – we experience and therefore know the heart of God.
And what does a heart signify? A heart signifies the essence of a person, the centre of a person’s very identity. A heart signifies love, compassion.
So while there aren’t any easy answers to the mysteries of life and death – answers for which we strive to seek rational, quantifiable and analytical certainty, often to our folly – one thing is sure: God’s love. God’s compassion for all of creation. Our salvation is found in Jesus whose way is love: This is central. This is vital to who we are.
When we take the risk to ‘touch the ball’ so to speak, when we approach the throne of grace boldly, when we take a risk to reach out in love to another, we can be confident to know that we are approaching the heart of God.
The only thing we can do is come near, come close to God. And the only way we can do that on earth, is to do it together, as a team.