Theology of Presence

13 Mar

I wonder if you realize how much our theological framework shifts over time. In different eras we focus aspect of God’s nature. It is one of the reason it is easy not take to seriously any one human beings declaration of who God is; particular when that person is very dogmatic about the nature of God.

In recent decades, popular understanding of God has been one of God’s power to be present with God’s creation. I think we don’t even think about the redemptive nature of God because many of us don’t really feel like we need that much redeeming. Psalm 139 is fits in the current stream of theological understanding, and it is one of my favorites. I know the New Revised Standard Version almost by heart. Reading The Message opens new understanding for me.

1-6 God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!

This a personal psalm, God is addressed directly, as one who knows us well. God knows us so thoroughly that God is a beat ahead of us, waiting for us. I think this concept was the one that help me to comprehend what is the infinite power of God. God can be present with all of God’s creation; listening, understanding, loving, guiding. Process Theology understands God to be present in each “moment of becoming”, a gentle, luring influence that leads us forward on our journey. We become more of God’s people when we are open and responsive to the lure of God.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

The assurance of the psalm is that we cannot be anywhere at God isn’t. The essential substance of our being is linked to the Divine, our creator. So, of course, we cannot be where God isn’t; God is with us, goes with us, precedes us because we are created in God’s image.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

Even with the belief that God is present with all of God’s creation, there is the awareness that not all people are willing to be lead by God. This is obvious, I know, but take time to think about what it means to God. If you follow this “process theology” path, then God is with people during their most horrible acts of injustice and cruelty. God is experiencing the pain that is inflicted by these people and even experiencing the twisted emotions of these people AND God sees even them as God’s children. I find it exhausting to comprehend even this limited concept of the infinite nature of the Divine’s presence and love.

Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!

Ultimately it comes back to our relationship with God. It is the only one that we can truly change. And so I join the psalmist in asking God to investigate my life. I ask God to give me the strength to change what is out of line with God’s will and the passion to continue to share what God have given me with everyone I encounter.

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.


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