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Today: 16 July 2019
 



 

Where is God?

First published 17/03/2019



It was a chatty hairdresser who said to a customer recently, “Do you know, there are people who believe that God floats around on a cloud…?”  Not surprisingly, the person with the haircut was too astonished to think of a quick answer.

What surprises me is that anyone should think for one moment that anyone thinks of God floating on a cloud anywhere.

Perhaps, though, what is most difficult here is the problem that we cannot actually visualise God at all - whether with beard or cloud or thunderbolts - nothing we picture is adequate.  Even as far back as the Old Testament, in words written some 3,500 years ago, the people were forbidden to make any images or pictures of God, for good reason.  One reason was the danger that they would worship the image which they had made rather than God.  Another was that making pictures is a way of explaining or controlling or interpreting something, and God is not to be controlled or constrained by us.

There is still a real question here though, which children and adults often pose, because of this very problem of not being able to visualise what God is like, or in this case, where God might be located.

Jesus suggested to a man called Nicodemus, that the Holy Spirit is like the wind - you can’t locate it, or say where it is, you don’t know its source or its destination, though you know it’s there because you feel it (John 3, verse 8).  God may seem just as elusive, though just as real.

But in the end, God is too “big” to be located anywhere.  It is not as if we can stand outside him and point to him ‘over there’, any more than we can stand outside the universe and look at all the stars and galaxies from some outside vantage point - we are ourselves forever within it.  And that perhaps helps us best to understand about God.  We cannot ever stand outside of God and point to him.  St Paul explained it to the curious in Athens - “In him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17, verse 28).  We could not exist outside of God.  

Sometimes, of course, we may ask the question in desperation, when tragedy strikes and God seems silent or remote, just not there at all.  The answer then, which is not easy, is that God is there, where the pain is, bearing the pain with us.  That is why we see a suffering Christ at the heart of our faith.  God has come in Christ, as Isaiah said, in words that Handel turned to glorious music, “Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53, verse 4).

That answer is not a philosophical theory but the very personal reality of God taking flesh and living here in Jesus, so that we can say, not ‘where is he?’ but he is here.



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Prayer:

Eternal God, you are greater than our minds can imagine, help us to know you are there, in the greatness of all creation and close beside and around us always.




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