The 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Most days I receive a photo or two or a short movie clip on our ‘Samiec Family Chat’ about the grandchildren. Of course it isn’t the same as being in the same room with them but it is nice to see them this way. Most of the time the children are doing their thing and largely ignoring the phone (how this technology must be ubiquitous and almost hidden to them is a thought for another time) but on some occasions they definitely know they are being filmed. What has fascinated me at the moment is watching their recognition of the people around them.

Whether it is the photo moment or video clip, there is something wonderful when the little face recognises – acknowledges – best of all, smiles – at the other per-son. It’s that moment of recognition – where the serious face that is looking intently, scanning features, maybe even smelling the person suddenly recognises the other face. For me the little one seems to be saying – there are no words yet – ‘I know you’, I trust you’, ‘I’m safe with you’. It is heart warming and precious and also I find rising in me a sense of protectiveness (which I hope I had as a parent – I can’t remember a ‘moment’ but I know I wanted my children safe and happy) and longing that this world be a safe place for every little face.

The act – maybe I should say ‘art’ – of recognition is important. I’m not thinking about facial recognition used by governments or organisations to monitor and even control. I’m talking about the recognition of one person to another person. Personal. Situational. This is the basis for the relationship that exists. It can be staring up at a face. It can be the sound of how the house door is opened and closed. It can be the first word in a message. There is a moment – a recognition – of who is there and what might be about to happen.

That’s why it is so hard to relate to a supernatural God – because the usual recognition modes don’t work. God, by this definition, is beyond the natural, beyond the usual senses we use for recognising someone. But that doesn’t make God unrecognisable!

The whole ‘point’ – the whole message of Christianity – is that God has – can – and does come close to us and he has made himself recognisable in the person of Jesus. Through the words – the account – the story (and it is a true story) – we come to ‘see’ who God is and what he is like. Most people have a version of God or gods in their heads even if it is just a silhouette or a figure in the shadows. The followers of Jesus have been telling his story again and again and generations since then have found that the story ‘grows’ on us and actually does make sense and so God comes ‘into the picture’. Not a God of our creation but an independent Being whom we recognise as gracious, sacrificial, serving – acting for us but not on our terms – a God to be trusted.

So when we hear all the views of God that are around, we can find ourselves going ‘No, that’s not what God is like or who God is’ because we can recognise that our God is a God of grace and mercy, a God who rescues us from the mess we are and we have made, a God of patience and kindness, and a God who challenges us to follow him. And when we’re asked to point him out in the ‘God supermarket’ we point to the one outside helping the people with the trolleys – and his name is Jesus.