Today’s Author: Paul Sponheim

“ . . . indeed he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being’ . . . “ (Acts 17: 17b-18a). 

If Augustine and the apostle Paul are right that groping for God is basic to our creatureliness, we ask where God is to be found. Paul has a two-word answer: “Not far,” backed up by the wondrous “in him” quotation. We could use theological jargon to say God is everywhere present, omnipresent. Or we could say God is right here. The first phrase, omnipresence, carries the universality of God’s presence; the second, the intimacy of that presence. There is a “here” in each “w/here” of the “everywhere”. Both ideas sound in the phrase “each one of us.” 

Søren KIerkegaard, the Danish author inspiring existentialism, writes that God’s invisibility is God’s omnipresence. What on earth might that mean? Alfred NorthWhitehead, the great English mathematician and cosmologist, helps us understand by pointing out that we usually take note of things by “the method of difference.” Here today, gone tomorrow—I’ll see you when you are here. For the always here—we will probably need other of our knowing skills, like imagination. After all, Paul is citing a poet here. The point is that for each of us God is always present, whether we are aware of it or not. 

Notice, secondly, the intimacy of that presence. It is in this ongoing relationship that we “live and move and have our being.” We do not only live with God. The Greek cries out that we exist in God. No wonder, then, that God knows fully what is going on with each of us, our sufferings, our joys, our deeds, and our misdeeds. The thoughts, the feelings. You can imagine God taking in, day by day, moment by moment, the happenings of your days and responding as God’s loving will directs God’s feelings and actions.

This may bring comfort or alarm, but in either case, the psalmist drives home the point: “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me fast. “ (Ps. 139: 18-19) This is the God who is universally present. Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky both live, move, and have their being in one and the same God. Is there a note of hope in that? As I think of the person I can only see through the window of the care center, as I agonize over the person whom I cannot reach, perhaps the person who has closed me out of their life; I can remember that God’s presence is not an optional matter. I can find some peace in that. I can bow my head in intercessory prayer. The one who prays and the one prayed for are connected through a loving and active God. 

So, if we know where God is—everywhere, for each of us and all of us, might there be a call for us in that knowing? Well, Paul is on a journey and he has words for our journeys. Turn around; talk some and listen a lot. More tomorrow.

Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.