Coop's Column - God Everlasting!
Learning what it means to be human involves learning to locate one’s place in the grander scheme of things—to figure out where one “fits.”
Jewish rabbis were fond of telling about a man so scatter-brained that he kept misplacing things, even his basic articles of clothing. He’d drop his socks, shoes, shirt and pants in such unlikely places before bedtime that he couldn’t for the life of him find them back the next morning. So he bought a notebook, and made a list of what he had placed where. In the morning he fetched the notebook from his bedstand, checked the list, and located every single piece of his wardrobe.
But then he found himself in a far worse predicament. Checking his appearance in a full-length mirror, he couldn’t locate himself. He kept asking: “But I—where am I?”
Learning what it means to be human involves learning to locate one’s place in the grander scheme of things—to figure out where one “fits.” And the place to begin that inquiry, says the Bible, is with God. The psalmist exclaims:
God, it seems you’ve been our home forever;
Long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
From ‘Once upon a time’ to ‘kingdom come’—you are God.
(Psalm 90:1-2, The Message)
So if you want to know yourself, reckon seriously with the fact that God does exist. Though the Divine One is well beyond human senses—invisible to the human eye, inaudible to the human ear, and beyond the reach of human touch and grasp—this Divine One, the great “I AM,” is God above all. God is, well . . . God—and God alone. Thus, every human being lives out the span of our years before God’s face. God sees and knows—and cares deeply about—our every act of working and playing, of eating and sleeping, of crying and rejoicing.
Though God’s deepest nature may be beyond human knowing (God is enveloped within mystery as if within a cloud), nevertheless God has left indubitable traces of his reality and presence. Said English Puritan pastor Thomas Manton (1620-1677):
We know God but as men born blind know the fire: they know that there is such a thing as fire, for they feel it warm them, but what it is they know not. So, that there is a God we know, but what He is we know little, and indeed we can never search Him out to perfection. A finite creature can never fully comprehend that which is infinite.
How easy to slip into living as though the Invisible One does not even exist. Some people, like pitiable Demas (cf. 2 Tim. 4:10), fall so head-over-heels in love with this world’s things that they become near-sighted, perversely unaware of what lies beyond. Fools, the Bible calls them, for they raise what they can see to such an exalted level that they expect miracles from it—they worship and adore it. Their lives become a jewelry store where price tags are all mixed up: trinkets command high prices, while things of real value go for pennies.
Other people try to sit where God sits. They act as though they’re in charge, as though the welfare of the entire universe—their own lives, too—depends on how well they do. (A preacher friend reported how he was running himself ragged as he tended to every detail and duty while serving his first congregation. His mentor intervened with wise counsel: “[Jim,] you must ruthlessly preserve the distinction between yourself and God!”)
However and wherever it happens that we drift away from God and thus dislocate ourselves, one thing is clear: There’s no better place to see God clearly again and to rediscover our proper place than among the assembly of God’s people gathered for Sunday worship. For it is there that God calls to his people with words of warm greeting, “Grace to you, and peace from God.” It is there that God reminds us of our dependence upon him: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” It is from there that we depart with a blessing which can give shape to our lives and define our days: “May the Lord bless you and keep you . . . and give you peace.”
Together—in worship—people come face to face with the God who tells us again that he exists. Together—in worship—we practice recalling who God is and what he has done for us. And in our act of communal remembering, God relocates us again, helps us rediscover who we are and where we belong. We fit sub specie aeternitatis: “under the aspect of eternity.” Relearning that thunderously important truth, we then come to expand the range of what the eyes of our hearts can take in. We come again to see that God is God, and that human beings are human beings.
And that those who keep the distinction between the two are wise.
O God, who lovest us, set our own loves in order.
(Thomas Aquinas, 13th Century)