What a way to talk

By Rev Maurice Wilmshurst

Posted in Culture

This article first appeared in the South Australian Methodist publication, Central Times, which later became New Times. Although it was published in February of 1973, the current editorial team felt many of the ideas could easily be applied today. There is some irony in publishing this article now (as you’ll understand when you read it) but we felt compelled to share. Let us know what you think in the comments section at the foot of the page!

“It would seem that [God’s] marvels are over, and that all we can do is to copy [the] ancient volumes and quote [the] words of the past…” What a way to talk!

This is Jean-Pierre de Caussaude’s comment made about 270 years ago [longer now! Remember, this was published in 1973]. He is talking about the way some people treat God. They expect to meet God by digging up the past… What a way to think!

John Bunyan would have found a name for these people. Would it have been Mr Past or Mrs Long-ago? Or perhaps Miss Hopeless or Lord Insecure?... What a way to live!

De Cassaude might be called the apostle of the moment. He argued that each moment had its importance. He applied this simple truth to the spiritual life. “The whole essence of the spiritual life consists in recognising the plans of God for us at the present moment.” The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Gospel of the present moment. God’s promises are now.

What does that mean today?

1. There is danger that people who look for God in the past miss God in the present. They are looking in the wrong direction. How do a backward looking people relate to a forward looking God? This is part of the problem of change. People are trying to keep a past when God is offering a future.

The train keeps running to the south

Shakes and runs, shakes and runs

Sitting the wrong way ‘round

We rush into the future backwards

Leaving tracks on the field.

Surely the Christian faith declares that the present moment belongs more to the future more than the past.

2. People sometimes talk as though God was powerfully present in Jesus Christ and since then has retreated to a distance. Bunyan could wish that he had been in Peter’s shoes. Then he would have been the companion of Jesus. We can understand Bunyan thinking that, but we know that it is wrong. All that was given through Jesus Christ in Palestine is given now. God does not withdraw his gifts. The first century was not the favourite generation. God’s promises are now. All that was ever given, at the present moment, is still given.

3. When God is sought in the past, people lose the expectation of God doing a new thing. In relationship with God an individual dares to be original; dares to be him- or herself.

4. In all of this there is a very practical conclusion. The Christian life is nothing else but becoming moment by moment what God wishes to make us. The “one thing” necessary to fulfil God’s purpose is to be found in what each moment brings. Everything and every moment is God’s opportunity and yours.

To sum up – God is present wholly in this very moment with a demand and a gift that is the fulfilment of his intention for each one of us.

Now that is the way to talk!

Rev Maurice Wilmshurst had a long ministry in the Australian Methodist Church and overseas. He was a member of the Joint Planning Committee overseeing the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches in South Australia.

 


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