This is a personal reflection by Penny Hargrave, a member of the congregation of Santa Margarita, who shared an abbreviated version of it with the congregation on 30 June 2019.
I would say that most people, certainly those of us in the Western world, have heard of God and his Son Jesus.
The older we are the more likely we are to have been sent to Sunday School – and years ago all English schools would have had an assembly, with (at that time) a Christian theme, nowadays a much more inclusive ‘all Faiths’ identity.
From this small beginning, truths of the Christian Religion would have been taught to us. In our teenage years we may well have been drawn to the social side of the church: youth clubs ,or boys and girls Brigade, and maybe the choir.
At some stage then, or maybe years later, we are drawn to go to church. Our first encounter with the inside of a church can be made or marred by many things. Were we made to feel welcome when we entered? Were we helped to find a seat, or asked if we wanted help with the service format?
The format of the service, the language used, the friendliness of other people especially after the service, all contribute to how comfortable we felt and influence whether we want to return.
All these things were positive and a pattern of regular attendance at the church began.
At this point it was a learning time, getting to know about the contents of the bible – and if the minister was good, then we began to understand in our heads just what God had done for us through his Son, Jesus, and how the life of Jesus on this earth had a purpose. He became human and lived and suffered like we do. He felt our pain and saw our suffering, but his life set us all such an example on how we should live our lives and why.
We then begin to feel guilty. Our lives do not mirror that of Jesus. We are selfish, we get annoyed with people and we are not the caring loving people Jesus wants us to be. We either turn away unable to change, or stay and get comfort from the church and stay at that level, or we search further, go deeper, start to ask questions and look for answers. This is when a good church comes into its own. The minister is the starting point, but all the mature members of the church have the responsibility to guide, nurture and come alongside anyone searching.
It is at this time in our lives when we search to know our Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son Jesus better. Unfortunately, many people never make the bold and trusting step of believing with our HEARTS what we know in our heads. We know Jesus died for us; we know He loves us; but that next step is just maybe too much of letting our own Will decrease to let his increase; or maybe we do not trust Jesus enough to carry out his many promises in our lives.
Often it is that we do not know how to take the next step in our journey, without help. God knew all along how we would be and that is why he sent his son, Jesus to guide us and set us an example. The bible gives us all the answers but it is only by reading it and praying that God can speak to us through his word to help us. Seeking help through mature members of the church can be very helpful: they have been there, had the doubts, lacked the faith and finally found Hope.
How do we get all our knowledge that we believe with our heads to believing in our heart? We ask God to give us FAITH: it is a gift from God, freely given to anyone who sincerely asks for it.
God is LOVE. I don’t know of anyone who does not want to be truly loved, not for who we are or what we have, but just for us, including all our baggage. That love is constant, it does not waver if we do not return that love, it does not rise and fall depending on our behaviour. Could anything be more perfect, more desirable?
Once we let this truth sink into our hearts and souls, we HAVE to respond by not only accepting that Love, but starting to love him in return. This is where the Holy spirit comes into His own.
Faith is believing in our hearts that God the Father, Jesus his Son and the Holy Spirit can and will change our lives for the better. If we sincerely ask The Lord Jesus to come into our hearts and abide IN us, he gives us the Holy Spirit to comfort and help us all our lives long. We may not have a sudden moment of indwelling, but a gradual growth of his presence.
There will be times when your heart sings with the joy of God’s love in your heart, there will be times when a little silent voice inside your head gives you advice, warns you of wrongdoing, encourages you to reach out to do good for hm. There are also times when God’s spirit seems to go cold, he seems out of reach. This can be because we have been too busy with LIFE to give him our ear, but sometimes it just happens and more often than not, when we again feel his presence we are better for it, we have grown closer, realized just how much we do need him and this knowledge makes us LOVE him more and more.
As we grow older in years we realize that our lives will not go on forever and that one day we will all have to confront our Maker and Heavenly Father, God. Have we reached the stage in our lives where we can say with conviction, “Into your hands I commit my Soul,” as Jesus did on the cross, in the sure knowledge that as God raised up his Son , on the Third Day , so he will raise up all of us who have put our Faith in Him?
This is what Jesus came to this world for. He lived a human life, died for OUR SINS though he was innocent, was Raised to life Eternal by his Father, and has prepared a place for us in Heaven to live with him forever.