|HOMILY FOR SUNDAY 5TH NOVEMBER
I want to speak to you today about “Intimacy,” because this is the word God has been speaking to me and to others in this community, in the last while. Allan spoke to it last Thursday and this week I read this prophetic word from Patricia King on the Elijah List:
“Get ready for a breakthrough unlike any you’ve had in the past. You may have had breakthrough in your finances, or in other areas of your life, but this is a breakthrough into intimacy. That’s right; the King Himself has invited you into His chambers to tell you the secrets of his heart. The Lord is about to woo you into deeper levels of love, revelation and passion. You’re breaking through a barrier of flesh, and entering a new season of relationship with the Lover of your soul. You may have distanced yourself from Him because of fear, or doubt of where you stand in your relationship with Him. Today the Lord says, “Let my perfect love cast away all your fears”. Drop any pre-conceived notions you may have in your arms now and prepare for a full embrace with the King.”
That’s it then: “Intimacy.” God wants intimacy with us.
We had a discussion about this last Saturday in our core group, when one of our members admitted that he did not know what it was to have an intimate relationship with Jesus. I pondered his words for a few days, and at the men’s group last Monday, asked the guys to talk about what “intimacy” meant to them.
Intimacy is one of those words, like transparency and passion and vulnerability, that we men are not very good at expressing. Some of the men talked about the intimacy they enjoyed with their wives, and the language was in terms of sexual intimacy, of nakedness, of laying yourself open and transparent to your wife.
I must admit that it is hard to think in those terms of an intimate relationship with Jesus or Father God. But I rather think, nonetheless, that it is precisely this kind of relationship which Jesus wants to have with us. Jesus wants there to be no barriers between us. That is why He died for our sins, to remove the barrier of guilt and shame which keeps us apart from God.
We keep Jesus at a distance from us, for much the same reason as we keep people at a distance from us, at least from our heart. Because we think, if they know what we are really like at heart, they would run a mile from us. Because we feel our secret thoughts and feelings are shameful, and if someone knew what we were really like, they would want nothing to do with us. That is why we really value a friend with whom we can be really honest, knowing they will not reject us. So one definition of a friend is this: “A friend is someone who knows all about you, and still accepts you and loves you as you are anyway."
Intimacy can be broken down to these words “into-me-see.” Jesus is inviting us into that kind of relationship with us where He lets us see into His heart and understand how He feels about us and about our lives, and where we let Him see into our hearts also, how we feel about Him, about ourselves, about our lives. I’m sorry if that scares you, it does me a bit too, but I think this is what Jesus is inviting us into, in a word: Intimacy.
So when we have that kind of relationship with Jesus where we can be absolutely honest about ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts, our sins, and know nonetheless He receives us, and accepts us, and loves us , then we know we have an intimate relationship with Him.
But there is still more to intimacy than this. It involves passion, ecstasy. It is about falling in love, yes, falling in love with Jesus. Blessed are those people who know what I am talking about. Have you ever, in your life, fallen in love with someone? If you have, then you know the giddiness of it, the breathlessness, the eagerness to spend every single living moment with your beloved, and the agony of every moment which is spent apart from them. And this is how Jesus feels about us, about you and me, and this is the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with you and me. And again, I’m sorry if this upsets you, or even scandalizes you. One of the members of our core group even talked about “spooning” with Jesus, which took my breath away a bit, I have to admit. But I think they are right. We have been so accustomed to pursuing a relationship with God in our minds and in our wills, that we have quite left our feelings out of account. In church, in our prayer time, we are not meant, to let our feelings get in the way. We can’t admit to being angry with God, so we deny that we are, and adopt a kind of superficial, distant, politeness with Him, or else we stop talking to Him altogether. And yet how do you husbands and wives deal with it when you are angry with each other, or with your children? And the rest of us, how do we deal with our anger, when someone we are close to, upsets us?
We have heard quite a bit about the “laughing” manifestation. Many people are scandalized by laughing in church, saying it is irreverent, and scandalous and wholly improper. Is that what you feel also? I keep a picture someone gave me on my wall. It is a picture of Jesus just laughing His head off. I have a good sense of humour, I think, and I like to think of Jesus having one also, and telling some great jokes about what He and His heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit get up to sometimes..
If by now you are totally scandalized, I am sorry to say I haven’t finished yet. Jesus wants us to fall head over heels in love with Him, if we have never done that. And if we have, and have forgotten what that was like, He wants us to “return to our first love,” to learn to fall in love with Him all over again. These are not my words, brothers and sisters, these are Jesus’ own words, and He says them to the church of Ephesus in Revelations 2:4, “I have this against you, that you have fallen away from your first love.” Might this be something Jesus would have to say to you or me, or even to us as a community, that we are not so deeply in love with Him as we were when we first invited Him to come into our lives and be our Lord and Lover?
To be a lover of the Lord one of the community returned recently from one of our friend’s prophetic school of the heart, and she shared with me how he challenged the people taking the course to look at their relationship with Jesus as a servant, friend or a lover. Most of the participants shared that while they were comfortable thinking of themselves as Jesus’ servant, or even as His friend, hardly any of them dared to say they were His lover. It was too passionate, too sensuous, in a word, too intimate! What about you, what about me? Would any one of us dare to call Jesus our lover? And yet, it is my conviction that this is precisely what Jesus is calling us to be, and wants to be for us, our Lover.
I think of Jesus’ closest disciple, John, and we are used to remembering that he was the only one of Jesus friends who stayed to the end with him, and stood at the cross while Jesus went through his final agony, despite the dangers of being hunted down himself, which drove the other disciples away from that scene in fear (John 19:26). But there is another place we find John. It is at the Last Supper, where John is said to be “leaning onto the breast of Jesus.” (John 13:23).What is interesting is that nowhere does John refer to himself by name. He always calls himself the “beloved disciple.” I think this is because John stands for all of us, who want to be beloved disciples of Jesus, his close personal friends. I think what John is saying here is that the two places where the one who wants to show he is a beloved disciple of Jesus is to be found, is at the foot of the cross with Him, and close up and leaning on His breast. In fact, unless we have learned to be this close and personal and intimate with Jesus in our prayer time, we will never be able to find the strength to stand with Jesus during our own times of suffering and desolation. It was the love of Jesus which urged John on to withstand his own fears and stick with Jesus through thick and thin, and it will be only our love for Jesus which will enable us to do the same thing, when persecution comes at us for being followers of Jesus, as come it surely will..
How do you get that kind of intimacy with Jesus? In the only way intimacy is built in any other relationship. By spending time with your beloved, quality time. How often do you pray in a week, and when you pray, how long do you pray for? How much time do you spend reading Jesus’ words in the Bible, compared with how much time you spend reading the newspaper or surfing the internet or watching TV? When you are in the car traveling to work or on errands, do you have worship music on? Do you ever spend time at home, just soaking in the presence of God? When you are not praying, do you nonetheless allow yourself to think about Jesus, and talk to Him during the day, inviting Him into every activity of the day? St John has this brilliant teaching of Jesus in his gospel: “If any one loves me, they will keep my word, and I will come to them, and live within them.” John 14:23
That’s just fantastic. That means, wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, whatever situation I find myself in, I am not ever alone. Jesus is with me, Jesus is within me. When I go into hospital for tests, or an operation, when I have to take an exam, when I am facing a difficult conversation with someone I have a hard time with, when I am doing the dishes at home, Jesus is right there with me, within me. I am never alone.
Fr. Bob Poole