This photo, sent to me by Sophie, is named “Mug from above.” It is one of three photos she sent to show me the mugs St James is selling to fundraise for the Community audio-visual project. I’ve found putting together the publicity for St James’s Midsummer Festival fundraiser an inspirational process. One of the events features two local authors, Mick Ashworth and Lewis Blair. Mick’s latest book is called Why north is up – map conventions and where they came from, whilst Lewis’s new novel is Seven varieties of silence.
All of these titles have got me thinking about perspective – why we see things the way we do. Most of the time we see things from ground-level, perhaps a little higher if we have an upstairs or live in a block of flats. We view what’s happening in the light of experience and knowledge we’ve gained over time. One thing we learn from the Bible is that our perspective as human beings is not the same as God’s perspective. His perspective is far greater, as Isaiah 55:8-9 shows:
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
Silence is one way we can tune into God thoughts and begin to see things from his perspective. Silence allows us to enter the presence of God, whose love is so great that the Psalmist declares it to be ‘as high as the heavens are above the earth,’ (Psalm 103:10). The idea of heaven being higher than the earth isn’t to be taken too literally. This is a concept more associated with God’s greatness rather than location. God’s higher perspective comes from his living beyond time. People sometimes talk of being in thin places where we can feel like we’re within touching distance of God; a sense that he is right beside us.
This sense that God is tender in his closeness and, at the same time, powerful in his magnificence is one that I find incredibly comforting. God’s greatness and deep love for each of us means that he is both able and willing to come close, to protect us and to provide us with what he can see we really need. That might lead to him encircling us and accompanying us as we sit down to read a book, pondering what it says, while drinking our favourite brew from a mug we view from above.
Rev. Harriet Johnston