A few days ago Anne and I took two of our sons to see a new film, Pete’s Dragon. Pete’s parents die in a car crash in a very remote place when he’s just 5, but for six years he’s cared for by a dragon in the forest. There have been rumours of a dragon amongst locals for years, but few people claim to have seen it or really believe it’s there. But the dragon can only be seen by those who look in the right way. (There was a great phrase to put that across, which I’ve forgotten, but that’s my paraphrase!)
It made me think of the hidden spiritual world that Christianity and other faiths claim is there, but people glimpse only rarely – of angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. Those beings are said to be all around us, but we rarely see them. Or is it that our eyes aren’t sufficiently open – that we’re too busy rushing around and thinking we already know and understand everything that there is about the world?
In John 3.3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that ‘no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ We often think about the kingdom of God as being somewhere we go in the future, but the kingdom is with us now, all around us, if we are open to seeing it. I think I’ve always tended to think about that particular verse as being future, but it struck me very freshly just this week. We cannot see the kingdom of God (now) unless we look at things a different way, with fresh eyes, with eyes influenced by the Spirit of God.
In this month’s faith article our writer reflects on the Resurrection appearances of Jesus and how he was not always recognised. This is no less the case today. God is always there, just waiting to be recognised for who he is. But it doesn’t normally happen just out of the blue. God reveals himself to those who are willing to spend time seeking him.
Mindfulness has gained many followers in recent years as an antidote to stress. But keeping times of silence and reflecting is nothing new. It has been a part of spiritual traditions, including Judaism and Christianity, for centuries. Instead of simply being mindful, as Christians we aim to focus our thoughts on God and become aware of his presence. And it is when we do that, that we are more likely to ‘see the kingdom of God’ – not necessarily angels, but they might make the odd appearance!
It can be hard to get round to the discipline of silent prayer and reflection, but this month we have a wonderful opportunity to do this together. Two members of a local religious community, Hopeweavers, will be visiting us to lead a relatively short time of contemplative prayer, and I really encourage you to come along. The 'Hopeweavers' style has proved very popular with people who don’t get to church regularly or are just exploring faith, so it could be a wonderful experience for anyone. There are more details on the Hopeweavers Quiet Evening webpage – just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more or to let me know that you’re coming.
‘The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.’
With every blessing