Today is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, it commemorates the day in 1226 when Francis died. Francis is know for his love of God as demonstrated in the natural created world; the animals, plants, and flowers, the mountains, rivers and seas – for Francis to love God was to love the world God creates.
“…. it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements …. that God must be found. Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything. Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. ” From an unpublished talk by Richard Rohr in Assisi, Italy, May 2012
The idea that some of us grew up with that God is in some way up there, above us, is still one that some people carry with them today. Just the other week I was asked by a student at Chaucer School if I was a christian to which I answered “Yes” – she looked at me and followed up with a second question and a look of puzzlement: “So you believe in God?” again I replied “Yes”, she continued; “So you believe in some man floating around in the sky on a fluffy cloud watching us all?” …. “No…”I answered “…. I believe in God”.
You see many people have sadly allowed God to become exactly the opposite of what Francis was trying to teach about – for many God (if he exists at all – and in some ways to doubt the existence of God could be argued to come directly from the same place) is this all powerful, judgmental super being who sits “up there” watching every move we humans make, passing judgement on us without apparently stepping in to help when it seems most needed.
“Where is God?” people rightly cry out when terrible events like to abduction of little April Jones in Wales this week happen. Well says Francis, God is exactly where he showed himself to be through Jesus: God is there in the pain and the sadness, the tears and the worry, God is there in every person who watches and waits and prays, God is all around us – a part of us, living in and through us, all we need do is let God be a bigger and bigger part of what we are like each and every day.
Meanwhile our thoughts and prayers are with April Jones and all her family and friends.