Some time ago, Colin Cowdrey, one of the greatest cricketers of all time, died. He was known and loved all around the world, and at his memorial service, tribute to him was made by the great and the famous. But perhaps one of the most moving parts of the service was when one of his sons stepped forward to speak. The words he used came from the deep love which they shared, and he was able to talk about his father in a way which wouldn’t have been possible for anyone else.
The stories which Jesus told about God are like this. There were things about God which only Jesus knew, and he must have realised that all of the other people he met, including the priests of his time, didn’t know God in this deep and personal way.
Perhaps the closest we can get to understanding this is the awareness which we sometimes have of being united in love to someone else. Perhaps we’ve been blessed by knowing what it means to love someone so much that we can say we’re at one with them, whether they be a partner, a child or a friend. And yet this closeness is only a pale shadow of the way in which love unites Jesus, the Son and God, the Father.
Jesus spoke very clearly about the depth of his relationship to God, but in contrast we are often reluctant to do this.
Have you, for instance, ever felt frightened to talk about your experience of God, perhaps at a Bible study group?
Have you ever been in the presence of people who seemed to know so much about scripture and theology that you’ve been overawed by it all?
Take heart! It was just the same at the time of Jesus. The religious teachers whom he would have known probably spent the largest part of each day studying the Jewish Scriptures. It was believed that those who lived like this would, through their wisdom, come to know God better than anyone else.
But most ordinary men and women barely had time to earn their daily bread. Can you imagine asking someone who probably spent 12 hours each day just trying to get by, to think and talk about a fine point of scripture?
We can easily see how ordinary folk reached the conclusion that really knowing God was reserved for the special few.
But Jesus sliced through all of this. “No”, he said, “You just need to be like a little child”. Jesus came to know and love God not by studying books about him, but by living in his presence. By listening for his voice; by watching and imitating him, and by learning through experience that he could trust God never to let him down. He also discovered that, as they followed his teaching, ordinary people were beginning to know God more and more.
And so, Jesus came to see that he was himself acting as a window on to the living God. Through his teaching, through his words and through his actions people were coming to see who God “The Father” really was.
So, when we look at the teaching of Jesus we can see that his knowledge of the God whom he called” Father” was shown through a relationship which we can understand, if only faintly, by looking at our own human relationships of love. But we know, because the Son of God was so uniquely related to God, that we can only describe him as being one with the Father. And yet Jesus also teaches that God is to be known by us in this same way. How can this be? How can we become one with the Father in this unique way?
Well, let’s look at some of the things which Jesus taught.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”
“Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”
“Apart from me you can do nothing.”
And he said:
“I am the bread of life; whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
Well, there can be no doubt that Jesus expects us to be a part of the unique relationship which exists between him and God. He’s also very clear as to how this can happen.
It happens when we are “in Christ”.
Inasmuch as we are “in Christ” then we know God in the same way as Jesus knows him. And so he’s given us both Word and Sacrament to form and nourish us in himself.
Perhaps sometimes we worry unduly as to whether we really are in Christ; but that’s probably a very good sign that we are. We don’t expect babies to turn into fully grown adults overnight, do we? But they’re in the human race no matter what developmental stage they’re at, and although youngsters might sometimes long for adult life, in the main they don’t doubt that they’ll get there.
And so it is with Christian growth. As we journey on towards full Christian maturity, the Holy Spirit will continually seek to form us more and more in Christ in order that through this belonging to Christ we can love and be loved by Our Heavenly Father. A love which is trusting and tender and childlike .A love which knows, without using words, that our Father would do nothing that was not for our very best.
Charles Wesley summed all of this up in the words of his hymn “Love Divine.”
Let me finish by reading two verses of that hymn to you:
“Finish, then, thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be; Let us see thy great salvation, perfectly restored in thee. Changed from glory into glory, till in Heaven we take our place. Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”