Friday, January 30, 2009

Where Did He Go?

After leaving them he went up on a mountainside to pray (Mark 6:45).

Our failure to find God in the everyday isn’t for lack of trying. Jesus told us to seek and we shall find, but there are days when it doesn’t work that way. The seeking doesn’t lead to finding, or perhaps the seeking and finding are separated by long waiting.

Belief is not the problem. We readily affirm that God is at work every day in the everyday. We acknowledge that God is present with us. We give our “amen” to Paul’s assertion that the God who made heaven and earth does not live in temples made by human hands (Acts 17). But in the contour of our everyday living there are barren stretches where God is not found. We conclude that God has left us.

We wouldn’t be the first to come to such a conclusion. Many centuries ago this same kind of experience led the Psalmist to ask “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). In his dying anguish Jesus picked up the line and prayed it from the cross.

This week we’ve been looking at Mark’s gospel and observing the different ways that Jesus shows up, making appearances here and there, revealing God in the everyday. There are however at least two instances when Jesus absents himself from the scene of what is happening. He isn’t showing up – he’s taking off.

In one instance, Jesus gets up early and leaves the house where he and the disciples are staying and goes away to a solitary place to pray. Mark uses the same verb twice in the sentence. He tells us that Jesus “went out” and “went away” (Mark 1:35).

The second instance followed the feeding of the five thousand when the disciples were getting in a boat to head to Bethsaida. Jesus didn’t join them. Mark tells us that “after leaving them he went up on a mountain to pray” (Mark 6:45).

Both instances result in anxiety and fear for Jesus’ followers. In the first instance they are searching for Jesus because so many people have needs and want his attention. In the second instance they are caught in a storm and fighting the elements of nature. And in both instances, while the disciples are in angst, Jesus is at prayer.

To the followers of Jesus it seemed that Jesus had left them to themselves; he isn’t where he’s supposed to be; he isn’t there when they need him. But in both times Jesus is exactly where is supposed to be. He is praying. He was praying then – and he prays even now.

When it’s hard to find God in the everyday these stories are God’s gift to encourage us. Jesus has not abandoned us, even when it seems that he has. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that even now Jesus prays for us. “He always lives to intercede for them.” That includes us and all who come to God through him. (Hebrews 7:25).

Our efforts to find God in the everyday sometimes leave us perplexed. “Where did he go?” He goes to God for you, intercedes for you. Jesus is praying for you right now – and that knowledge can change the everyday of any day.

Lord Jesus, we give you thanks that when we don’t know how to pray for ourselves you pray for us. You have promised never to leave us or forsake us, and we claim that promise today. When we struggle to find you in the midst of our days, strengthen us with the knowledge of your eternal intercession on our behalf. Amen.

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