I do. All the time. It’s so easy to go through life wondering what is it all about. What was the point in anything I did. Did I serve a purpose and, if I did, did I actually make any positive difference in the world at all?
And it’s so easy to think that you didn’t. To feel like you’re a ship cast adrift at sea, just riding each wave, desperately clinging on to life until that one wave which will eventually wipe us out.
Positive stuff, eh?
But I can guarantee that every single person here has felt that at some stage in their life. Most of us will have felt it even since we first came to faith in Christ. Some here will probably be feeling that right now.
What on earth is it really all about?
And then we see something truly dreadful happen. It happened just 11 days ago in a tower block in west London. A fire started by a faulty fridge, made worse by… well, the full story is still to come out there, and hundreds of people, whole families are left destitute and homeless, and at least 79 people seem to have lost their lives.
And it’s here, in the midst of unspeakable human tragedy, that we see what it really is about. We see the point in what we, as human beings, do. We find out what the purpose of our lives is.
Because it is here that God moves and works, through ordinary men, women and children. It is here that people bring food, clothing and shelter to complete strangers, moved by a compassion that serves no selfish purpose. It’s here people raise money for counselling, for the victims and members of the emergency services, because they know that the scars will run deep and long. It is here that Churches, Mosques, community centres throw their doors open to offer temporary homes, or bases for those dealing with the aftermath to work out of.
This is where we see the kingdom of God.
Jesus sent 72 of his followers out with a message (Luke 10:1-24). The message wasn’t “convert to Christianity or burn in Hell”. The message wasn’t “you need to go to Church more often”. The message wasn’t even “follow me and you’ll go to Heaven”.
The message from Jesus was “The Kingdom of God has come near you”.
The kingdom has come to us, not the other way round.
And he’s instructing us to do the same as the 72, 2000 years ago. To go out into the world and tell others that the Kingdom of God has come near.
A nursery teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what her drawing was.
The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher paused and said, “But no one know what God looks like.”
Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the little girl replied, “they will in a minute!”
When we share our faith with anyone else, and when we follow the teachings of Jesus, we are also painting a picture of God. We are bringing him to life in the eyes of people who may have gone far away from him.
So, what kind of picture are we painting?
Look at what Jesus tells the 72. They should accept hospitality when it’s offered. They should eat, drink and live with all those who welcome them. They are being told to form relationships and communities, to share each others’ lives.
This is how God wants to work through us, in partnership and in relationship with us. At the moment his will is not always done on earth as it is in heaven, to quote the Lord’s Prayer. Now yes, of course he could force his will to be done; he has the power to do that. But we have been made with love and in love, in order to love. Love is not something you can force someone into. If God forced his will on the earth he would be creating robots, slavishly doing what he wants, but not out of love.
Instead he has given us the free reign to choose whether or not to love him. And rather than forcing us to do his will he is inviting us to allow him to do his will through us, in us and with us.
That is the picture we need to be painting of God. He is a God who wants to be involved in the little details of our lives. He’s a God who wants us to work with him, rather than for him. And he is a God who wants us all to do this in community with each other and Him.
This is where we come back to the awful events at Grenfell Tower. God didn’t cause the fire or will the fire to happen. However he is at work in the aftermath. He is working through the many hundreds of people giving their time, energy, skills, money and so much more to help people who have lost everything to realise that they are not alone. They haven’t been abandoned. They are loved and valued and they are part of a wider community who share in each other’s pain to create something beautiful that will allow lives to be rebuilt once more.
This is what the Kingdom of God looks like; people created to love, doing what they were created to do. The people of God living, loving, laughing and mourning with each other, and God in the middle of it all. Not everyone involved in the response at Grenfell will realise God’s central role, but he is there nonetheless.
Now, I hope that none of us ever have a tragedy of that scale to deal with on our own doorstep. But it doesn’t stop us from bringing the Kingdom in, creating that community with God at the very heart of it all. It comes about when we support each other through our hard times; the single mother relying on foodbanks, the middle-class family struggling in debt, the student dealing with anxiety, the couple dealing with a miscarriage, the woman recently widowed. These situations and many more are all around us, our neighbours, friends, work colleagues, families and ourselves all dealing with our own hardships. God wants to work through all of these situations and more, but he wants to do it with us, supporting each other and creating that beauty out of sadness we see at Grenfell.
But God also wants us to be a community celebrating our joys together; the recent graduate, the woman with a new job, the engaged couple, the 90th birthday, the negative test result from the doctor. These situations also surround us and God wants us to share in the joy as much as he wants us to support each other through the bad times. Because that is what community is, that is what his kingdom is.
And that is what our mission is. When we think mission we automatically think of events like the one in today’s reading; being sent out to different parts of the country, or the world, to bring the Gospel to the unreached or deprived. Mission, however, is something we should all be doing at all times and in all places. We are being sent into our own communities, our own workplaces, our own social settings, even our own homes, in order to bring in the Kingdom of God. On occasion we are sent further afield, but for the majority of us the mission we have been set is to take place exactly where we are. Right here, right now.
Our mission is to show that God, rather than being far off and removed from us, is with us where we are, no matter what we are going through. Our mission is to be that presence in the lives of others. Our mission is to work with God and with others to create a strong, loving, supportive, joyful, worshipping community – the children of God as one family, sharing our lives and our loves. That is what we were made to do, that is the difference we make. We can all do it, regardless of who we are, where we live or what we do.
Look around you. The harvest is still huge, but there are many workers now. Let’s get to work!