I could give you lots of personal examples, but that’s not what today is about. Today, for me, is about new life as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
So, in the middle of a pandemic where so many lives are being turned upside down in so many different ways. When I was asked this question, I had to stop and think, have a conversation with my husband Malcolm. And as we talked, I realised that, if our focus isn’t right, it can be all too easy to miss God’s work.
There’s been a lot of negative focus these past weeks that can suck you in to only seeing the dark side. So, as we chatted, my focus shifted into place, my mind began to cascade with signs of God at work.
To try and make some sense and not ramble on, I’ve tried to identify different areas of God at work. With the current situation we find ourselves in, I’ve seen God at work in community, in healing, in conversations.
Conversations Since the Prime Minister was taken into hospital, we heard national news reports on TV quoting leaders from around the world sending their thoughts and prayers for Mr Johnson’s healing. This wasn’t Songs of Praise that we were listening to, this was the News and the word “prayer” was being said in a positive way! There’s lots of groups being set up on the social media network in which people are talking more and more about God. Online services, poems being quoted and written, and again there’s prayer – with thousands of people listening and reading. A friend of mine recorded a service which has been watched 1K times! That’s a mega increase in connection with God! God’s working in social media!
And WhatsApp is part of social media of course. I’m part of quite a few WhatsApp groups. One of them is called The Hub. The Hub is open to everyone. They meet initially, usually on a Sunday, at the Methodist Church in Hope, have bacon butties, then go out cycling or walking, talking about anything and everything, including faith, about God, creation and more and more. You’d have thought all that might have diminished since we’ve been in lockdown, but quite the opposite. Using WhatsApp, the togetherness has grown as we’ve shared much more with each other on a daily basis.
We have an amazing Pioneer Minister at The Hub, Jonathan. He had a phone conversation with someone from Radio Sheffield which resulted in him being invited to talk on the radio, on Easter Sunday morning, about what is happening at The Hub. He would have been talking about how great God is.
One of God’s greatest signs of hope, the rainbow, is being displayed in the windows of houses across the country. What a wonderful opportunity to engage in conversations about the rainbow.
A family on TV the other day, were being interviewed because they’d recorded a song about hope, using the rainbow as a sign. They’d made a video using dance to go along with the song. In the video was the rainbow as a sign of hope but also praying hands.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg I suspect about conversations! What about healing?
You’d think with so many tragic deaths being reported that there is no healing taking place, but there is and that’s another sign of hope.
Example on TV of a gentleman who’d been in intensive care with COVID19, having recovered and was being sent home and hospital staff giving a guard of honour, clapping him as he went down the corridor. At home, he is seeing things differently and delighting in things like he never has before.
Others, some you may know, tell a similar story. A story of thankfulness; a story which echoes the gentleman in the same words - of looking at things differently. Delighting in what we take for granted, seeing beauty in creation – in plants and animals that have always been there but suddenly there’s something in them that stirs the soul. That’s God’s creation talking to our hearts. They are sensing new life. That’s a new focus on the positive not the negative.
You’ve heard of the popstar Robbie Williams. He’s credited God for his coronavirus symptoms disappearing. Fearful of the virus, he decided to turn to God in prayer. Not something he would normally do, he got down on his knees and prayed and within 30 seconds the symptoms and fear had gone away! He says that prayer is vital for him now – it safeguards him. That’s God at work.
There’s the story of a man desperately ill in hospital – he turned to God, asking him to help and God sent a cleaner. This man was in isolation and a cleaner who could only come to the door started chatting. Turns out the cleaner used to be a missionary and asked if he could pray with the man. The man said yes. The man began to get better. His appetite started to return and he really wanted a packet of prawn cocktail crisps. How do you get a packet of prawn cocktail crisps while you’re in ICU? He decided to ask God to send him some. The cleaner came back with a bag which contained 2 oranges, a can of pop – and a packet of prawn cocktail crisps. That can only be God at work in both men can’t it?
Conversations, healing. Community. What can I say about community
The Church has sometimes struggled to be an authentic part of community, often being accused of retreating into the buildings. With buildings being closed we might well have thought that church definitely has been closed but that’s not been the case. Because its people who are the church, not the buildings. And so church has had a slight focus shift. We’ve had to come out of the buildings and think differently. And God is working to build better communities and he is, in part, doing this through his church.
So church moved in Hathersage from conversation about delivering Easter cards and Easter services, to being an active part in help organising street co-ordinators – every household, every street in the village has someone who they can contact.
People are not only talking more, despite being in isolation, we’re joining together on Thursdays to say thank you to the NHS and all front line workers. It’s so moving to hear and see people in the streets on doorsteps, hanging out of upstairs windows, clapping, banging saucepans, making noise generally, to say thank you. And the togetherness that brings is amazing.
Malcolm said he saw something on Facebook encouraging us to do something called the BIG SING – all going outside to sing “amazing grace” – not just any old song then but an iconic hymn written by John Newton telling the story of how he came to faith. And, depending on when you’re reading this, you may have been outside or intending to be outside at 10 o’clock Easter Sunday morning singing “Christ is Risen Today” and “Thine be the Glory” answering the call to go outside and sing at the top of your voice in order to bring in a counter infection of joy and hope for Easter Day. Who would have ever imagined we’d be doing that! That’s God at work.
A few Sunday’s ago, we had the National Call to Prayer, in which we put a candle in a window and lit it at 7pm and prayed. That’s carried on. In every community you’ll not only see rainbows in windows, you’ll see a candle shining brightly amidst the darkness. That’s God at work.
The interest on Google regarding prayer has shot up. A small group in Bamford who met weekly to pray, now meet via email and have invited others to join in. The numbers have already trebled.
We have a spiritual need in our DNA, and at times such as these, that need is intensified. God has never left us. He’s still here and because we’re asking him, he’s working. He’s not like this virus which goes any where and every where without invitation, causing havoc, causing death. God waits for an invitation and when he’s invited he always comes to us and brings hope, healing, restoration, new life.
He’s being invited in by many many people today and so I have come to the conclusion that the answer to the question, “where do I see God at work? It is everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.
Wherever goodness is, God is. I encourage you to keep an eye out for Him and invite Him into your life.