Where God Is Not

This is from a couple years ago. I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for god in 2015. It’s often not easy.

The thing about writing these words, these introductions to communion, is that it forces me to pay attention to things, to be on the lookout for something to say, or someway to say one of the same things I always say, but a little differently.  And sometimes, even though Don is flawless in emailing the schedule every month, I don’t realize until a couple days before, that I need to have something prepared.  So I desperately start looking for something to talk about.  I start looking for god in the world, and what god’s up to.  Because that’s what’s special about the cracker and the juice.  Those things show that god is with us, right here, in these plates, in our hands, in our mouths, present among and within us.

So this week as I was looking for god, I noticed god was in a lot of places, and maybe not places that warrant a mention during communion, like in the sound of a bat hitting a baseball, or in hot coffee on a cold morning, or in the opening few bars of any AC/DC song.  So I took my thought experiment even farther and looked for places where maybe god wasn’t.

It was hard to imagine geography where god wouldn’t be.  I know there are those of you who could testify that god is clearly present in the quiet of a deer stand early in the morning when nothing seems to be moving, but clearly, something’s moving.  But surely there are people everywhere who feel the same about the jungle or desert or beach or tundra or city.  That if you listen, as god is often quiet, there is no question but that god is there.

And what about in all those people far away?  Here at home we know god is present in the relationships we have with our kids, our parents, our friends, our co-workers.  So god has to be present in the same relationships in places that are so different from what we know, places so foreign that many of us would never want to visit because, in the words of my late grandmother upon hearing we were visiting Ukraine in search of a son, “Why those people would just as soon shoot you as look at you.”  I know god’s in those places.  I’ve seen god myself in English pubs, Greek train stations, German youth hostels, and especially Ukrainian and Vietnamese orphanages.

What about those places, I continued to think, where not only don’t we want to go, but where our own state department tells us not to go, because people really do want to kill us, where in the meantime they kill each other.  I looked these up online by the way.  There’s a map of most of them in the back of your bibles.  Is god there?  In those places on the news, where bombed buildings fall in on children, where people are fighting and fleeing and struggling to maintain a standard of living that’s not as high as that of our pets.  Where’s god in all that?

And I don’t know.  It would be easy for me in my relative luxury and safety to say, I’m sure god is there working it all out in his own time, while children die and parents mourn.  Or that god’s not there because those people believe wrongly about religion or politics or something else.  But it’s hard for me to imagine a place where god’s not.  So my answer is what it always seems to be, what I always say.  God is there in the neighbors digging for the bodies of their friend’s children.  God is there in their mourning for their lost friends and family.  God is in those refugee camps, and with those aid workers.  And somehow god is with those people in power who make horrible decisions that result in dead families, but for the life of me I’m not really sure how.

And, as I always remind us, myself included, god is in the food we eat, not just the cracker and the juice, but in the food that powers our bodies, our hands and our feet, the only hands and feet god has, to do what god would have us do, to see that god’s will is done on earth, here at home, or abroad, in both peaceful places where we can hear god in the silent morning, and in horrible places where we can’t.


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