Originally posted October 27, 2011, at koinonia 21c. Republished with permission of the author.
There are days when I am not in tune to God’s presence. I am doubtful that the invisible God is near, available, accessible, close to me. At times, Jesus is hidden from me.
Now, I am a Lutheran Christian and a pastor. The presence of God and the nearness of Christ are supposed to be something I know and proclaim. The Bible is essentially about the presence of God, the voice of God, the revelation of God to people and finally the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
I believe that God is present whether or not I can sense the presence of God. But I also want to experience God’s presence or the visible, tangible, incarnate, in-person Jesus. I want Jesus LIVE!
I can see why people might reject or deny the existence of God, since the presence of God is a matter of faith. We want to believe in what is real. What is real is what one can see, touch, smell, taste, understand with one’s mind and senses. There is a certain physicality that we require.
Look to the suffering
I go back to the Lutheran idea that God is hidden in and among those who are suffering. Luther believed that the crucifixion of Jesus signified God’s compassion for the suffering, dying, unjustly treated, impoverished children of the world. So, if I am in search of God, I will find myself connecting with people who are troubled.
I think about this upper-middle-class American, fundagelical, megachurch Christianity that is clean and big and technologically proficient and culturally relevant.
“Have you found Jesus?” This is a question that hyper-spiritualizes the gospel. And it assumes that we are the agents of salvation. When you find Him, you will be saved.
Is God absent? Or are we looking in the wrong space? In what ways do we identify with suffering? How does the biblical God become known?
Jesus is hidden from us because we are comfortable and safe. Jesus is in the shadows, on the margins, among the overlooked and forgotten in our streets. Jesus is with that homeless guy curled up on the sidewalk in front of the Philadelphia convention center. I saw him on Tuesday. I’m not sure that anyone else did.
If you are in a place where God is absent from you, consider searching among the refuse. Among the discarded and abandoned is where God can be found. The curtain is often our own prejudice and our own false sense of security.
I trust that my eyes will see God when I am facing someone who is struggling. I doubt any of us have to look real far or too hard.
Find a link to Matthew Lenahan’s blog koinonia 21c at Lutheran Blogs.