The God who draws us here this morning is the God of brief encounters. In that, although God’s presence is constant we are limited to glimpses and hints of his life and love in the world, brief encounters.
And the God of brief encounters is present in the lives we lead and the patchwork of brief encounters that make up our lives. Of course some of these brief encounters turn out to be rather more, the first date that turns into marriage for example.
But sometimes they are just a few minutes and I guess all of us if we think back over our lives we can all recall brief encounters which have shaped our lives. Moments that have enriched our living as we are encouraged or inspired.
Let me share one example from my story. I remember meeting the great jazz and rock drummer Jon Hiseman, who at a concert made eye contact with this young drummer and then spoke with me, made me feel important.
But there are also difficult brief encounters are also often vivid memories. When we receive bad news from a medical professional for example. These few minutes in a life of thousands of minutes, are vivid and often perfectly recalled.
Just this last week I was with someone as they recalled with great clarity some of the most traumatic few days of her life.
Brief Encounters good and bad are etched on our minds.
And it’s a brief encounter that’s described for us in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Philip meets an Ethiopian Eunuch who is trying to make sense of his life.
He’s reading the prophet Isaiah, he doesn’t understand it so he invites Philip to get in, sit beside him and share his understanding. In this brief encounter everything changes for him and he is baptised.
In the weeks after Easter Day the Gospel readings have if you think about them been about brief encounters because that’s what the resurrection appearances are.
He is the gardener, the unexpected guest, the stranger on the shoreline, the companion on a walk. And just when they begin to understand what that might mean he disappears.
Hardly the stuff you might think on which to base your life yet these brief encounters changed everything for them.
If we think about some of the other stories we love in the Gospels are brief encounters too.
And what of those encounters not committed to paper? How many moments were there when Christ made eye contact with those around him, listened and spoke to those he met and made them feel they mattered?
Moments in time for those present in which everything changed.
And so it is for us, for the risen Christ is invariably revealed to us in brief encounters of one sort or another. Our job is to invite him into the chariot of our lives, to sit beside us, to listen and learn.
This for me is what St. John writes of when talks of abiding in Christ in our Gospel for I cannot think of that abiding as being a state of permanent awareness of Christ’s presence, things, we, are more complicated than that.
Rather faith invites us to see the risen Christ amidst the patchwork of brief encounters that make up our lives even as Good Friday reminds us, those brief encounters we wish we never had or cannot understand.
For as we think of our lives, we will recall moments we regret or times when we find life hard yet even then there are brief encounters that sustain us.
The kindly look or word of encouragement, the invitation to be with friends, to share a meal or go out for lunch, these encounters are in some way glimpses of the resurrection.
To abide in Jesus for me then is an attitude of the heart, a discipline that seeks to see his risen life at work in every facet of life.
And we seek the God of brief encounters too when we gather together as fellow pilgrims in this holy place.
For we meet the risen one in those moments when the God of love seems so close. When in our worship, as we sing, as we hear, as we pray, as we hold out our hands, draw near with faith and take his life into our own we meet him afresh.
In these brief encounters Christ becomes real to us, his presence makes ‘our hearts burn within us’ and though these moments are fleeting and mysterious, unpredictable and perhaps frustrating, different as they are for us all, they are enough.
They are that on which we choose to build our life, and they help sustain us too through those times when we find life and faith mundane and Christ so far away.
These brief encounters, in and through each other, in worship and in all kinds of ways are precious moments and the God who draws us here this morning is the God of brief encounters.
On my bed at the moment amidst this lovely cold weather, is one of my mother’s patchworks. It’s made up of all sorts of bits of fabric.
Consequently as you look at it, one piece or another invokes a memory of the past made up as it is from offcuts and bits left over, some patches are torn or frayed, its been well used.
And so that patchwork seems a metaphor for the life of faith. The patches of fabric reminders of brief encounters with others and with Christ and he is the thread too as they are sewn together to make something more, something whole, something beautiful.
So today I give thanks for the God of brief encounters, I look back with thankfulness and forward with hope for we never know when the risen Christ might turn up in our lives.