A Thought on Unexpected Encounters

I look out on our back garden and see a pink slide, a half-open, poo-strewn guinea pig hutch, a deflating beach ball, and a grubby upended paddling pool. It’s all a little bit messy, unsightly and chaotic. But useful. Not unlike the inner me. My soul if you like. Not the tidy, organised, sorted situation I would like and frequently aspire to, no, something else entirely. Speaking recently with Phil Stone at Scargill House, on Encounters with God, we asked for suggestions on places where people have such encounters. A good friend Mark called out, ‘On the toilet’, which then sparked a stream of thought about ‘putting the loo in hallelujah’. But Mark was serious, it’s just as possible to meet God in the smallest room as it is in a church. In fact, for some folks time in the loo is precious alone time. A key opportunity. This also reminds me that God is well-acquainted with reality. With the chaotic, messy, unsightly bits of ourselves. And with what it is to be human. He knows all about what our bodies do, he designed them after all. And stepped into skin and bone and blood and muscle for 33 years.  There is a moment in the sitcom Rev when we focus on Rev Adam Smallbone’s face as he pours out his heart to God, and it’s only after we see him reaching for a loo roll that we realise he is praying on the loo. When Jesus met a Samaritan woman he told her that in the future, connection with God would not be about geography or architecture, but rather about spirit and truth, so it’s no surprise that we can pray and talk to God all over the place now. Reality is what is important, not the right words, or the right clothes, or the rehearsed facial expression. Reality. Spirit and truth. Hearts and minds open and offered. This is vital otherwise we confine knowing God and meeting our creator to the acceptable places, and the right words, songs, people and readings. People met Jesus in their places of work, their homes, the streets, the markets, the day, the night, in crowds and alone. All over the place. When Peter saw a vision which would blow the lid off his worldview (in Acts 10), he was staying with Simon the Tanner, otherwise known as Simon the bloke who used animal excretion to prepare leather. A job which back then would have been considered not exactly spiritual. Yet Peter had a vision in that place which would mean outsiders like me could receive the good news of God. Another example, I guess, of putting the loo in hallelujah.

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