We are living in tumultuous times. Whoever thought we would witness another evil and cruel war in Europe? The cost of living is spiralling, and we are still experiencing many consequences of the pandemic that has engulfed the world.
At a personal level, unwanted situations can invade our lives and shake us to the core - broken relationships, loss of a loved one or a reminder of our own mortality. We can encourage one another with strong and positive words, but is that enough? Do we reach a point where it dawns on us that human resources have their limits? The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University, in the early 20th century. Einstein was travelling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his jacket pocket, in his trouser pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; ‘Not to worry, Dr Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.’
As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. He returned to Einstein; ‘Dr Einstein, Dr Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein got up and said, ‘Young man, I too know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.’
Life is a journey, but do we know where we are going? That simple question raises the possibility of living our lives in a context that is more than just what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
Many years ago, I invited a Christian singer, Betty Lou Mills and her musician husband, Russell to the Rifle Hall in Halesworth. The Hall was packed as they shared their story, which included the loss of an infant child. I remember Betty saying that the question any parent would ask in such a situation is, ‘where is my child now?’ Again, there is that default position that there must be more to life than what we see around us.
CS Lewis put it well when he said, ‘The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can't supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.’
On June 5th, the Christian church will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. This is the day when the life of heaven broke into our earthly existence by the Holy Spirit. It is the culmination of all that the life and death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus achieved. It is God saying that we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts in a million years, but to all who receive Jesus as God’s gift of life to us, our present existence has meaning and power and purpose. Speaking with people over many years, a clear pattern emerges. As long as we keep ourselves occupied, even distracted, there are certain things we do not have to think about. We can effectively avoid looking at reality - or we could adopt a more constructive and ultimately vital approach and use those things that we hate most in our lives as windows. Instead of fearing to look, if we come with open hearts and minds, we will find a God who loves us so deeply that, whatever challenges we face, we can feel safe and secure in that love.