- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Kevin Wattles at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Falls Church.
Hide-and-seek may be a game for children, but it can also tell us about our relationship with God. If you remember, one person is declared "it" and everyone else runs to hide. Whoever is found or tagged is the next to be "it."
Sometimes in our lives we think God is the one who is "it." We are running and hiding. One reason we run is because we feel guilty about our sin and fear the punishment we think He may inflict on us. Maybe in fact we have done something wrong, and our sense of guilt, of shame, is natural. In those times, we run from the image of God as an angry judge, rather than the true God, who is loving and full of grace.
When we run from God, it may be in the manner of Jonah in the Old Testament. God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach against the wickedness in that city. Well, Jonah headed in the other direction. "No, I don't want to do that." He hopped on a ship to escape, but after three days in the belly of a great fish, he had a change of heart.
In the same way, we may know God's command but decide, "I'm going to go my own way." The nation of Israel itself ran and hid, and it was this decision by the nation to worship other gods that prompted the words of Isaiah [55:6-7] we read today: "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him, while He is near."
As Isaiah makes clear, there is another twist on the hide-and-seek game. Sometimes we are "it" and we seek the God who seems to hide from us. If He does seem to be hiding, we have to ask, "What is this God like we are looking for?" Maybe it's a God made in our own image, not so much the God of the Bible, but a god of success, prosperity, happiness or wealth.
These are the two things I would like to impress on you today. One is that, in our internal life, we do hide from our relationship to God. The second is that, regardless of how you perceive God, and why He seems hidden, know that He is always there as the God of love and unmerited grace. When children play hide-and-seek, they go everywhere, behind the bush or under the table. Wherever we run, this God will find us with His unconditional, unmerited love.
That attitude of grace led Him to send His own son, Jesus Christ, to become one of us, to live the perfect life that we couldn't live and die the death that we couldn't die. He offered the perfect sacrificial death to take away our sins, to give us forgiveness, to give us peace. The righteous died, the Bible says, so the unrighteous could join the family of God. Jesus' Resurrection is how God comes after us still today. A dead Savior could do no good, but the Bible says that after three days in the grave, He rose again. We have an eternal life in Jesus, and the means to try to live a good life now. We are privileged to have God seek us in this way.
God does not just want us to be baptized and then forget about Him. The seeking goes on, especially by the word of God itself. God also seeks after us to encourage and strengthen us in Holy Communion.
Finally, I want to change our hide-and-seek game to tell you about being seekers "for" God ambassadors to God's people. We are seekers for God in our own hearts, and then we try to live that out. But we also have to seek those who don't know God. According to one set of statistics, 75 percent of Americans say it is good to have a personal relationship with God, but only 40 percent feel they need to be in church. I'm not saying you can't know God anywhere, but the body of Christ is important. And then, what about the other 25 percent?
If you know any children who played hide-and-seek this week, you probably saw them play it with joy and enthusiasm and commitment. Perhaps God is asking the same of us in our seeking for Him and for others.
Next week: a sermon at a District congregation.

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