In Luke 7 there are two stories of resurrection. Jesus raises the nearly dead, the centurion’s servant, and the very dead, the son of the widow of Nain.
Immediately after the young man sits up and starts talking there is a moment of stunned silence. Before the expression of noisy opinions or the blustering of the pharisees. Everyone is simply ‘awe-struck’. Eugene Peterson expresses this moment in this way: ‘They all realised they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful and then noisily grateful’.
It was only a moment before the discussion and doubts set in again. No wonder Jesus became weary of them and would later comment (11:29) ‘the mood of this age is all wrong. Everyone is looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you’re looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles’.
The crowd wanted to be entertained but not changed, be given something to talk about but not be given a mission to live for.
A life-changing encounter with the Holy is always possible and infinitely more likely than we might think. There are two reasons we don’t have such an encounter. The first is that we are so frequently preoccupied about the past or living anxiously in the future that we are rarely present in the present. And if God is anything he is present tense.
In his poem ‘The Bright Field’ R. S. Thomas writes
‘Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush’
Are you rushing along through every day, living with constant noise/music/news/commentary? Without stillness you will miss the holy encounters offered to you: in beauty of nature, the smile of a stranger or the taste of a meal.
The second reason we miss ‘holy moments’ is that before we have even fully allowed us to enter them (or them to enter us) we have begun to rationalise and debate the experience. We worry what might be required of us or what it all means when actually all that God desires is that we live with grateful awareness.
I love the story Pete Greig tells of walking along trying to be conscious of God and sensing God saying to him ‘look at that tree’. He stood stock still in rigid expectation of some great divine revelation, a powerful prophecy…. Nothing happened. Eventually he asked God what it was he wanted to reveal to him through the tree.
‘Gee, Pete, you’re so intense… I just thought it was a nice tree’!
Life can be full of moments of holy mystery and wonder if only we walk around with our eyes open, our spirit’s alert and our sense of humour in tact.