Noticing…Jesus noticed two boats nearby when he was teaching the crowd at the shore of Lake Gennesaret…First Simon, then James and John noticed the holiness of the surprising catch of fish, and were moved enough to leave their livelihood - nets and boats - to follow Jesus.
When do you notice God’s presence with you? Maybe Sunday mornings, praising God, hearing the Word, praying, and being moved to respond in your own way…maybe looking into the eyes of an infant…maybe in the quiet of sitting with someone leaving life behind…maybe in the joyous music of praise songs or a dramatic cantata…maybe seeing the Grand Canyon or walking in a redwood forest for the first time…all touching moments when I felt keen awareness of God. Other symbols make me take notice of God, without words.
Butterflies signify transformation, sometimes the Easter resurrection, sometimes during challenging times when I foresee beyond the dark chrysalis with hope that will emerge into beauty, bringing the next cycle of life, by the grace of God.
Vibrant colors and symbols in our art glass windows speak to me. They include all the primary colors and transitions in-between to illustrate the arc of God’s work from creation to resurrection, always illustrating the message of God’s Love.
Rainbows speak of God’s promises, sun after rain.
Shells speak of baptismal waters.
Doves mark the presence of the Holy Spirit, and prayers for peace.
Bread and grapes, of course, remind us of the Lord’s Supper and nourishment of our souls with God’s presence.
Candles symbolize the light of Christ, the presence of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit…and sometimes flames rise with prayers.
Planting a memorial tree speaks of God the Creator as we watch them grow.
“Big Tent” names a roomy, welcoming, inclusive church of people with differing political opinions, shifting definitions of family, diverse theological histories, eclectic tastes in worship music, contrasting preferences for God’s Word from King James to The Message or even The Shack. Multiple generations with differing values and experiences with poverty or race or war, and so much more makes us different. It is shared faith that unites us in gratitude for the gifts of God, noticing the presence of God.
Can a budget be a symbol for noticing God’s presence? My youngest leaves for grad school in a few weeks, preparing to invest more years, serious effort, and money including debt in order to deepen her commitment and skills to care for others. She and I are sharing predictions for her work-study earnings, gifts from family, spending her savings, and anticipating her ability to repay student loans. On the other side of the ledger are her essential needs and occasional discretionary spending that includes her favorite dog - a budget.
Finding a balance with so many variables outside our control breeds humility and caution. Like our church budget that anticipates the generosity of the people of God and our plans to invest in mission and ministry for this year and beyond – its accuracy depends upon “God with us.” We pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” but daily living and our evolving plans as a grad student or as a congregation in the midst of a continuing pandemic all depend upon faith in the presence of God.
Noticing that presence just might be a spiritual gift of hope. Resting in that noticing speaks of faith and trust, a manifestation of the Spirit. What do you notice that reminds you of God’s presence around you? Noticing sparks gratitude each ordinary day. May you notice those nudges that God in all his Love is with you.