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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 18th October 2020.

‘Searching’

In my old age, I seem to spend a lot of time searching for things, for example, my reading glasses, or a book, or a tool I need for a job. I regularly forget where I have left my iPhone or iPad. Fortunately, I have an app on both of them, which, if I have one of the devices, can tell me roughly where the other is. Most of the time the app tells me that the one I can’t find is somewhere near me in the house. I still have to search, but it is reassuring that I haven’t left the missing item somewhere away from the house – which is always a relief!

I expect I am not alone in spending a lot of time looking for physical objects that I have mislaid, or I simply can’t remember where or when I last saw them, or things that have ‘walked’. Over a lifetime we must all spend a very large number of hours (if not days) looking for things.

There is a lot about searching in the Bible. In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel there are two stories about searching: the shepherd who searches for a lost sheep until he finds it; and the woman who has lost a silver coin and sweeps the house thoroughly until she finds it. The important point in both stories is that neither person stops searching until they find what was lost.

Many passages in the Bible encourage us to seek things. For example:

· ‘…seek justice, rescue the oppressed’ (Isaiah 1:17)
· ‘The one who seeks the law will be filled with it, but the hypocrite will stumble at it.’ (Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 32:15)
· ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Matthew 7:7)

And there are things that we are told not to seek. For example:

· ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18 NIV)
· Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.’ (1 Corinthians 10:24)
· [And again from St. Paul, who can sometimes be controversial:] ‘Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.’(!) (1 Corinthians 7:27)

But the most frequent injunction is to seek God. For example:

· ‘Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually.’ Psalm 105:4)
· ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; (Isaiah 55:6)
· ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’ (Matthew 6:33)

Many people do not seek God. Sometimes we can look around us and only see or be conscious of what is physically in front of us. To find God we have to look beyond the physical. St. Symeon, a 10th to 11th century Byzantine Christian monk, put it this way: “For those who look with their physical eyes, God is nowhere to be seen. For those who contemplate him in spirit, he is everywhere. He is in all, yet beyond all.”

Perhaps this is why the zoologist, author and atheist Richard Dawkins has never found God. He has always looked only at the physical world and argued that it can all be explained in terms of science and evolutionary processes: therefore, why do people need to believe in a God who created everything? But many less well-educated people know otherwise. Robert Hugh Benson, an Anglican priest (and the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury), who was accepted as a priest into the Roman Catholic Church in 1904, summed up the well-educated atheist like this: “It was the man in the street who knew our Lord, and the Doctor of Law who was perplexed and offended.”

God is in all of us, both ‘saints and sinners’. And he wants us to find him. He wants to forgive our sins. He wants us to be at one with him. If we want to find him, the best place to start looking is within ourselves. There is a Kurdish proverb: ‘Search yourself and you will find God’.

But many people don’t bother to look for God, or perhaps only seek God in times of crisis. I expect the current pandemic may have caused the hearts and minds of many Covid sufferers and their families to turn to God in times of difficulty for the comfort, healing and peace that knowing God can bring. And, hopefully, by God’s grace, they have found it.

When one of my daughters left home to go to university, I gave her a book-sized brown paper package tied up tightly with string. On it was a label which read: ‘Open in Case of Emergency’. I expect you can guess what was in the package – though I can’t remember which version it was!

May you always seek and find the peace of the Lord.

Fr. Ray