August 6, 2014 — by Rev. Mateen Elass


Unlikely God Sightings

Where did you see God?


god-sightings-mccdonalds-eco

Recently, during the children’s message time in our Sunday worship, the topic was “God sightings.” The speaker shared some answers from our kindergartens when they were asked the question, “Where did you see God at work last week?” One unexpected response, which garnered some chuckles, was, “McDonalds!” I couldn’t resist commenting later during the service that I was going to stop by the local franchise on my way home to see if I could spot God while enjoying a burger.

A few days later, I happened to stop in McDonalds for a late lunch between appointments. I didn’t see God at work but—to be honest—I wasn’t particularly looking. However, after clearing off my table and walking to the trash bin, I passed by a little girl standing right next to the glass door leading outside. She couldn’t have been more than three and she seemed on the verge of tears. Getting rid of my tray, I stopped and asked if everything was all right. Tears brimming in her eyes and her fingers intertwined over her mouth with arms scrunched in over her chest, she murmured frightened words too muffled for me to hear. So I knelt down and asked her again. This time I heard her,

“I can’t find my Nana.”

“Could she be in the bathroom? Let’s check there. You go in, but if she’s not there, come right back out and tell me.” So I pushed open the door for her and waited. Ten seconds later, I saw the door crack open and a three-year-old barefoot snake around the edge of the door as she struggled to make an opening wide enough to slip through. The anxious look on her little face answered my unspoken question.

“How about the play area? Maybe she’s looking for you there. Let’s go check.” Sure enough, as soon as we rounded the corner into the play area, there was her Nana with a look of relief on her face. My little friend ran and latched on to Nana’s legs, hanging on for dear life, and burying her tears in her grandmother’s slacks. All would be well once again.

God sightings


Minutes later, sitting behind the wheel of my car, I had my God sighting. God had just taken me through an acted parable, reminding me of the work of the people of God. We are to be on the lookout for people who feel their hope draining away and are without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). We are to befriend them and walk alongside them as they search, providing guidance each step of the journey. And we are to enter into their joy as they finally find their way into God’s presence and run into His embrace.

Now, of course, that’s not all the Church is called to do and be, but in these days marked by so much cultural confusion and despair, it may be one of our most important callings as we follow Christ. Evangelism has not been a strong suit of American Presbyterians in the last half century—we’ve depended on attractional models, on programs, and on professionals. We’ve worried about offending others, about appearing foolish in our beliefs, or unacceptable in our lifestyle pursuits when judged by those in cultural ascendancy. But no matter what masks of self-satisfaction or complacency our society may sport, human beings are, “…strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Every so often the masks come down and frightened anguish brims over. Are we there among those in need, ready to come alongside those who admit they are lost? Are we ready to walk with them on the journey, encouraging them through the doors of the Kingdom into the embrace of God?

This is not the work of paid professionals, nor is it the fruit of prepackaged programs. It is the calling of every disciple of Jesus, wherever He places us, at any moment. May He give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to care. May the lives of those in our churches be filled with God sightings.

To the eternal glory of our Savior.

Photo credit.


Rev. Mateen Elass

Mateen was the second of four children born to a Syrian Muslim who had married an American while studying at the University of Wisconsin. Some years after Mateen’s birth, the family moved to Saudi Arabia where his father worked as an oil company executive. During his early teens Mateen began a search for God, largely through reading. For six years he focused on eastern mysticism and meditation including a stay at an ashram in India. His heart is for those who walk where he once walked, those who search but have not yet found the love of Jesus. For that reason he particularly appreciates the church’s welcome to visitors, its willingness to walk beside them as they move toward God, and its growing enthusiasm to move outside the confines of the church campus to share Christ’s love with all who wish to hear. A frequent speaker about Islam, Mateen sees his experience on both sides of the Christian-Muslim divide as providing a unique opportunity to create bridges of understanding. His great hope is that God will use him to reveal the love of Jesus to both sides. “God will provide guidance to those who seek him, and will equip his people to do his will.”

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