My friend was recently sharing with me his experience of serving as a chaplain to the queue to those attending the Queen’s Lying-in-State. As well as it being a deeply moving experience and the opportunities to listen, pray and care, he commented on the fact that people simply thanked him for being there. In some way, simply seeing a chaplain, knowing he was present, in this unique time of mourning was extremely comforting for people. So often we can underestimate the power of God’s presence in us as we offer that divine presence to others.
At Third Space Ministries we like to spend time grappling with Scripture and applying it to ourselves and our context. We have delved deep into Exodus 33:14 this year.
Exodus 33:14 My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest
The people of God are at Mount Sinai on a long, arduous journey towards the promised land. Moses knows that he needs help and desires something more than the presence of an angel. He heads to the ‘tent of meeting’ for a fascinating, audacious, dialogue with the Almighty. As we have studied this as a team over several months, we have found such depth and richness and mystery in this chapter. Essentially however, we keep coming back to presence.
As chaplains we talk about ‘ministry of presence’ a lot, and regularly remind ourselves of the impact of our persistent presence in a third space: the person who feels their trust in us deepens as they chat each month to us in a coffee shop; the person in a club who starts to receive prayer once they realise we aren’t as judgemental as they thought; the person at the gym who is blown away by the fact they we are committed to journeying with them while they process the challenges of life.
But it is vital that we remember that it starts with God’s ministry of presence to us. If we are going to operate a ministry of presence to others, then we can only do so through soaking and resting in his presence first. Returning to our ‘tent of meeting’, our personal place of encounter with God, is a discipline that we must never neglect. It truly is God’s presence/his face upon us that distinguishes us.
Exodus 33:15 – 16 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Time and time again we are aware of the distinctiveness we bear. Anyone can display kindness and compassion but as kingdom people, as followers of Jesus, as pursuers of God’s glory, we bear something unique that most people can’t quite put their finger on. As carriers of the Holy Spirit, we often find people commenting in such a way that we know it can only be God: “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this”, “I feel such a peace after talking to you”, “I’m leaving this place feeling so much lighter from our conversation”.
Pioneering can be a lonely business with minimal companions and few compass points to guide us. The reassurance of God’s presence is a promise we need to cling to as we navigate direction daily.
As we pursue the presence of God, we reflect something of him and his glory to a hungry, hurting world. What an encouragement to know that Almighty God is with us and working through us as we make ourselves available and vessels for his presence.