The Generosity of Presence
This past week, I recalled many “where is God?” moments. Like some of you, I watched the Vietnam series on PBS. For younger viewers, it was a history lesson. For we of a certain age, it zeroed in on old wounds and scars, on almost-forgotten memories. At one point, I realized I was looking for faces I knew.
By mid-1968, the escalating war, two assassinations, burning cities, and riots in our streets had me convinced that there was no worse time to be alive, and that God must have wiped God’s hands and walked away. Hugely pregnant with my first child, I would hold my belly and weep; I didn’t want this to be to the world this child would join. It felt like a godless world.
So here we are today: the unveiling of racism, a mistreated earth, a disrespected constitutional democracy and polarization of citizens, Kim Jog Un’s nuclear fantasy, three devastating hurricanes—one leaving 3.5 million Americans without power or water on a steamy island—and a crushing earthquake. It’s all so unfair and feels familiar.
Rev’d. Geoffrey spoke to us Sunday morning about generosity, about being generous ourselves and receiving generosity from others and from God. As in 1968 and many other years, where do we find this generous God?
We heavily depend on faith and prayer, staying spiritually in touch. By doing so, we find God is present and indeed has not walked away. Through prayer and study, we remember that we’re not promised a lovely Christian life of smooth sailing, but we are promised that we are not alone and never will be. God is in all of it, even the ugliest messes. God sticks with us. That is God’s generous gift. I take great comfort in this assurance. It also teaches us that being present for another can be the most generous gift we can give. It is the guiding principle of Stephen Ministry.
I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. John 14:18
Believing in that presence helps us see God’s generosity at work in all times. The baby who emerged into a sorry world grew into a beacon of hope and compassion for the acutely ill. My cousin who returned from Viet Nam with serious internal scars became a minister to the lost and the aging. Today we see people thinking in new ways about what our faith requires of us. They are pitching in to help those left in chaos. They are looking at earth science; they are reading history and acting on what they learn. They are reaching out to frightened, angry brothers and sisters who have been marginalized. They are showing up, they are speaking out. Some are taking a knee.
During baptisms at the 9 a.m. service Sunday, our priest splashed a fine geyser of blessed water from the baptismal font for each sacrament. Babies laughed. We all laughed. It was a fine reminder of generosity, that there are more than enough blessings to meet our needs, even as the water crossed the floor and headed toward the altos. It reminded us of the joy in God’s presence.
How do you find God’s presence during difficult times? How do you experience joy in that presence?