St Barnabas and St Michael’s 27th June 2010
Have you heard of Quidditch? If you haven’t, then you haven’t yet come across the magical world of Harry Potter. Quidditch is a game played on broomsticks in mid air. The idea is that two teams try and get the ball into the opposition’s net. It’s a swift and sometimes violent game as the players sweep back and forth across the sky trying to score as many points as possible.
But there’s one person in the game of Quidditch whose role is rather different. Because half way through the game a magical golden ball called the Snitch is released, and it is the role of the seeker to catch it. If the seeker on either side manages to get it, then no matter how points are already on the board, it’s game over.
Sounds confusing? Well, click on this link and and then on Philosophers Stone from the menu on the right of the page, and you’ll see a clip that explains what I’m talking about!
Wouldn’t you love to be able to play Quidditch? Sadly I don’t think in our non-magical world we’ll ever be able to do so. But I do think there is a real sense in which all of us as Christians are called to be seekers. Three times in our reading from Amos we are encouraged to seek and as we shall see later, seeking the Lord is not about chasing a fantasy or playing games, but about dealing with the ultimate reality.
But before we go any further, let’s think what it means to seek.
Now I guess all of us have at one time or another played “hide and seek”. It’s a pretty simple game. Everyone hides except one person who has to seek the rest of them out. And of course to seek somebody out means taking action, actively looking for places where your friends might be hiding, not giving up until you’ve thought of every possibility. Seeking involves effort and energy. So, to take another example, if you’re in a job and you’re seeking promotion, you don’t just sit around hoping the boss notices you. You make sure you’ve got the right training and the right experience. You do all you can to carry out your job well, and you put in the required number of hours. Or again, if you’re seeking to move house, you’re not just thinking what it would be like to live somewhere else. You’re actively looking, maybe talking to an estate agent or searching the Internet. You are probably busy in your spare time with the paint roller and wallpaper making sure your old home looks the best it possibly can.
Seeking involves effort and energy. So, then, do you know what it means to seek the Lord, to actually put a shift in to find out what the Lord is like and what He wants of your life? You might well say, I haven’t got time for all that. I have enough to do day by day, week by week. Well, I think the command to seek the Lord asks a serious question as to where our priorities lie. Because – and this is something I believe we all tend to forget – our faith is the most important aspect of our life. After all, the life we lead is a gift from God, a wonderful, precious gift of a loving Heavenly Father who has shown us just how much He loves us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us. And what is our response? Maybe to come along on an odd Sunday when the weekend’s not too busy. Say a short prayer as we rush out the door on Monday morning. Occasionally brush the dust off our Bible when we have finished all the household chores. Surely God deserves more than that. We read in our gospel reading – from Luke 13:10-17 – how our God is a God of power and healing and compassion, a God who can do far more than we can ever ask or imagine. Shouldn’t we be spending at least a little regular time getting to know Him better?
Of course, you may well ask what it means to actually seek the Lord. One thing I do each week is draw up a timetable of upcoming events. It’s useful both for myself and for the family to know when I’m around, and when I’m out and about in the parish, and it’s a habit I’ve done for many years ever since I worked as an accountant. Perhaps one thing all of us could do at the start of the week is to think and pray about what we are planning to do this week. It might something as apparently ordinary as visiting the supermarket. We could ask, for example, pray for those we will meet on our shopping trip, even the person who takes the parking space we were about to drive into. We could thank God for all the good things that we are able to buy, or try to find out a little more about the people who have produced our food. Or the Lord might lay on our heart a conviction that we could do our shopping another time, and in fact we ought to try and visit a friend we haven’t seen for a long time. Seeking the Lord, you see, is very simply recognising that as Lord He has authority over every part of our lives, and working out what it means to obey Him – by prayer, by reading our Bible, and meeting together for worship.
This doesn’t mean that once we start doing this we will instantly know how to live out the Christian faith. Because our faith is all about a living, growing relationship. The first time we set about seeking the Lord’s will there may in fact seem very little difference in our daily lives. But as we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit working in us and through us, gradually, little by little, we learn to see the Lord at work, through a verse of Scripture, for example, that comes to mind when we face a critical decision, or a conversation at a bus-stop where we are able to share something of our faith, or simply the strength and courage to go through with a difficult and painful situation.
And of course this command to seek the Lord isn’t simply a command to each one of us as individuals. Like so many verses in the Bible, this one is addressed to us as a unity, as the people of God together. The modern idea that somehow our faith is personal to us, and we come together occasionally to practise it with like-minded people is completely alien to the whole of Scripture, both Old and New Testament. To be God’s people means quite simply to be there for another, sharing one another’s burdens, helping one another work out what it means to live as a follower of Christ. And if all I’ve said about seeking the Lord makes little sense to you, or it’s something you’ve never really thought about, why not have a word with me afterwards, or find a more experienced Christian who can teach you how to do this? For it is by seeking the Lord together that we discover life as it is meant to be lived – in right relationship with God, and our fellow believers, and with the world.
And please don’t make the mistake of thinking that seeking the Lord is somehow about being all religious. After all, the people of Amos’ day were very religious. They regularly travelled to their shrines to pray, to offer sacrifices, to worship. They loved their services and their ceremonies, and no doubt they willingly signed up for the rotas each month. But the only trouble, all their worship and devotion didn’t make any difference at all to the way they lived their lives. So that, for example, if you went into the local courtroom, the verdict would depend on how much money you could slip to the judge. Or if you went down to the marketplace, you would find the poor looking for food were being fleeced and generally ripped off.
I guess we all know that just as a tube train stops at a station on the London Underground, the announcer tells the passengers getting off to “mind the gap”. Amos’ words are a call to us to mind the gap between the faith we claim to follow and the rest our lives. If you have a notice sheet, you will find printed on the rear side, today’s memory verse – Amos 5:14. Let’s say it together: Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. So the question for each of us to think about is this: how much time and effort are we prepared to put in to seek the Lord’s will, so that we really be known as His followers and make Him known to others?
Let me finish with some words to close from Ephesians 5:15-18 …
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.