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26 April 2017

The last word: Living in a cloud

The last word: Living in a cloud

In late January this year, large parts of southern England were covered with thick fog. For three days, it was hard to see more than 100 metres – it was like living in a cloud. It just happened to be the time Ann and I were on our annual retreat, a week of prayer, reading, listening and planning. As I sat looking into the cloud, I began to reflect on my life – on what I can see and indeed what I can’t. 

As I follow Jesus, I’m convinced that his life, death and resurrection established a new ruler over all the earth. Jesus is already ruling the world. The kingdom Jesus spoke about and encouraged us to seek and pray for has already come. Yet, as I watch and read the news, engage in social media and chat with my neighbours and friends, I’m left wondering what’s going on and indeed whether Jesus really is in charge. If God’s kingdom has been established, it’s not in all its fullness, there’s still so much ground to be taken. 

But, perhaps, there is more going on than I realise. Perhaps it’s as if we are living in a cloud, gaining only occasional sights of God at work, hearing whispers of His kingdom coming. Perhaps the news we are exposed to from so many directions – whether BBC, Sky, Channel 4, our newspapers and social media – is not the full story. Perhaps there is so much more that isn’t reported. Perhaps the news we are bombarded with day in and day out isn’t the complete story, or indeed the most important story. It might not be ‘fake news’, but it’s certainly not the ‘full news’. 

Eugene Peterson, best known for his translation of the Bible, The Message, but was also until 2006, professor of spiritual theology at Regent’s College Vancouver, in his classic book, Running with the Horses, answers the question. 

“What is God doing? He is saving; He is rescuing; He is blessing; He is providing; He is judging; He is healing; He is enlightening. There is a spiritual war in progress, an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in a continuous and energetic battle against all of it. God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. God is for heaven and against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.” 

As a community of faith, we see only some of these battles and little of it is reported, it’s as if we are living in a cloud. However, we do sense God at work. We hear distant sounds of His activity and amazingly, as we read scripture, we are invited to make our contribution. In fact, we are commissioned to be agents of God’s kingdom, His representatives in a world in which many will choose to oppose Him. We are, after all, those who have bowed the knee for King Jesus, we are those who are seeking his kingdom first and looking to welcoming others to join us in following Jesus and submitting to his rule. 

So, as we live in the cloud, we need help to keep our eyes and ears alert. It’s vital we refuse to accept the prevailing story that we are presented with by the powerful storytellers who surround us. Our message must be: there is another way to see the world. God is at work and one day we will see clearly because the cloud will be lifted. The apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church left them with this instruction: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18). 

As we watch, listen or read the news, let’s ask for God’s help to see the unseen and not just the seen.

Illustrations by Holly Jones @illustratedbake

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