…Longing to See You!

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WOW…what a week! When we were last together, we held our AGM, and as a church family we discussed our plans for the year ahead – now all of that is a distant memory! We’re facing a very different 2020 than the one we had all anticipated – on a personal level and as a church family.

There are so many questions that we might have at a time like this… ‘Where does this leave me?’, ‘How do I face such a sudden change of circumstances?’, ‘What about all my plans?’

We can end up grieving for what might have been and longing for a different reality.

‘Torn away’…

Paul knew this feeling. He’d experienced the pain of being torn away from the group of Christians that he’d become attached to. This is why his letter back to the Thessalonian church is littered with familial language. He calls them ‘brothers’ (1:4), he felt ‘motherly tenderness’ towards them (2:7), he gave them ‘fatherly encouragement’ (2:11) and he cites them as an example of ‘brotherly love’ (4:9). That’s why their separation felt like the act of being orphaned and ‘torn apart’ (2:17).

Many of us carry the wounds of separation – an absent parent, an unfaithful spouse, an estranged sibling, a run-away child or the death of a loved one. Each of these experiences leave gaping wounds as relationships have been torn apart, our hopes dashed, and worst fears realised. This was the kind of pain that Paul felt as he wrote his letter to this church.

It’s clear in the bible that each of us has been torn away from the most important relationship we can have – our relationship with God. We could try and ignore the ache, carry on as normal and pretend we’re fine…but we’re not! That’s the message at the heart of the Christian faith – ‘You’re not fine!’ And the unique situation we’re in is waking many of us up to that fact!

We’ve all been so busy trying to find something that might give meaning to our lives; and hoping that it will satisfy the longing in our hearts. Work, money, possessions, relationships, experiences and substances – they all seem to promise so much, and yet they never truly deliver. While we’d like to think that we are too sophisticated to indulge in the primitive idol worship of earlier cultures, all we actually do is exchange the carved lump of wood for a cheap piece of shaped plastic (…or something equally ridiculous.)

In the quote I shared on Sunday*1, C.S. Lewis urges us to allow our aching heart to point us beyond this world. Instead of being distracted by these fleeting glimpses of goodness, we should return to the source of all good – God!

‘…see you face to face’

There is something precious in meeting face to face and it’s something that I’m really missing. I’ve had lots of messages, calls and video conferences this week – but none of them are quite the same as being in the same room as another person and, if our relationship is close enough, crossing into each other’s personal space to make physical contact. With each passing day I have a growing desire to meet with you all, sing psalms, hymns & spiritual songs together and see Christ in you!

Gavin Ortland, an American pastor, tweeted this thought last week, and I love it!

“A happy thought: when churches finally start gathering again, what a happy reunion it will be!  It will be like a little foretaste of heaven: so much waiting, and then finally together again.”

In his good news account, John tells us that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). In Jesus, God crossed into our ‘space’ and made physical contact. In His incarnation Jesus embodied and lived out the spiritual reality that God wants us to be reconciled – He won’t sit idly by, waiting for us to return. He actively seeks, pursues and rescues us in our ‘shattered space’ so that we can experience life in His ‘perfect space’.


Questions for Connect Groups/Personal study:

  1. Longing is a powerful feeling. When have you experienced it?
  2. Can you think of ways that longing becomes a destructive thing?
  3. Paul longed to be with the Thessalonian believers, and he gives some of the reasons for missing them (1 Thess. 1).
    – List some of the reasons that you’ll miss meeting with your 3C family?
    – Use your list to pray, giving thanks to God.
  4. Do you carry any wounds of separation?
    – How have you coped? How does knowing Jesus help? How can/do others help?
  5. C.S. Lewis wrote concerning our longing hearts;
    ‘Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing’
    – What ‘earthly pleasures’ do you enjoy?
    – How do they point you to the source of real joy?
    – How might they become idols in your life?
    – Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, thank God and allow them to be an act of worship.

Ideas for engaging kids:

  1. Stained Glass Window
  • Create a stained-glass decoration to hang in your window.
    You can find some ideas of how to do this here – lots of different options!(https://buggyandbuddy.com/16-faux-stained-glass-crafts-for-kids/)
  • When you hang the decoration, discuss with the children how pretty the different colours in it are but until light shines through it you can’t see it’s true beauty.
  • Use this as an opportunity to talk about longing for Jesus’ return and the glory that it will reveal.

“I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

  1. Memory Banks Thanks
  • Share some memories of some particularly ‘joy-filled’ moments.
  • Use actual pictures or magazine images to create a collage.
  • Discuss what it was that made it so memorable.
  • Pray with your child, thanking God for the memories and our promised future in Jesus.

Footnotes:

*1 – “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would

know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in

this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you,

but they never quite keep their promise […] If I find in myself a desire which no

experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I

was made for another world.”

 

“Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse

it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand,

never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the

other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a

kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my

true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get

snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press

on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

 

– C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, pp. 135-137.