Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Where is God?
I believe it was John A. T. Robinson who said the God who was once somewhere, now is nowhere. That is the sober truth we learn from our children. We have taught them that God is a ghost in the sky, a feeling in the heart, or an idea in the mind. In essence, we have taught that God is made up, that, if He is real, it is not the same concrete reality they have or their world has. So it is no surprise that when they grow up a bit, they become resistant to things like church and faith. The nowhere God has caught up with their rebellious streak and they are not content to live the shame any longer. Perhaps teen age angst was always a faith problem but, having stripped God of any real reality, it has become a faith problem without an answer.
I do everything in my power to teach these preschoolers (as I do the youth in catechism class) that God is real and is present not in the imagination of my mind or the desire of my heart or clouds in the sky but in His Word and Sacraments. God is there as He has promised. He has made Himself captive to the means of grace so that we frail and weak creatures might know where He is and have access to the grace in which we stand.
The focus of even Lutheran piety is often as nebulous as what we think, feel, or makes us happy. We seek hymns that we like to sing instead of the hymns that speak to us the Word that He spoke first to us. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, "Pastor, I am ashamed to tell you what my favorite hymn is...." We point all sorts of places where we think God is but few of them are close to where God has said He is. So the feel good stories that make the last few minutes of a newscast impact us more than the Word of the Lord or our place at His Table. We read the evangelical authors whose inspirational tone shapes us more than the Law/Gospel of the preaching of God's Word.
Our piety ought to be focused and shaped by the means of grace. Here is where we point. God is here! The God of flesh and blood, of suffering and death, of resurrection and life. He is there in the waters of baptism that claimed us, that stole us from one kingdom to plant us in His own. He is there in the Eucharist, the bread where faith tastes Christ's body and the wine where faith drinks His blood. He is there in the voice of absolution that addresses us with the Word that unshackles the chains of sin, washes away its stain of guilt, and restores us as His own.
Children tell us what we have said to them. When we speak about God as an idea, as a feeling, as a presence on the plane that does not intersect our reality, we tell them God is not real. They beg to know where God is. Thankfully, the liturgy points them where our witness has failed them. Watch their eyes follow the words and actions of the Divine Service. They are taking seriously what we take casually. They look to us to see if we will confirm what the words and actions of the liturgy say... sadly, the answer too often is no...
It is time for us to step up to the plate and be honest with our children. Just maybe this honesty and conviction may help them remain when the pull of youth and the world are working against their faith. Wouldn't it be nice if we could teach our conviction that God is where God has placed Himself... in the means of grace... a much more reliable answer than a finger pointing to the sky or a hand held over the heart.