Thursday, March 5, 2015

God is wherever we allow God in

When I was ten, I discovered there were people called 'atheists'. I was surprised. How was it possible that people could not be touched by presence, presence that enfolded and gifted the world and addressed you, drawing you on into meaning. They were, obviously, using now a word I did not know then, 'obtuse'!

Also they required you apparently to believe (or not) in God. God was not a question of belief. I did not believe that the fabric of the breakfast table furniture bench was blue nor that my parents loved me. They both simply (or complexly) were part of the fabric of reality just as that fabric was woven on the weft of God's presence.

I was reminded of this reading Kenneth Paul Kramer's 'Martin Buber's I and Thou: Practicing Living Dialogue', one of a series of books where Kramer explicates and makes practical the thinking and spirituality of this great, Jewish, teacher. This book focuses on the meaning and purpose of his seminal text.

In the course of the book, Kramer has Buber retell a critical incident. Buber has been visited by an elderly pastor friend and as he escorted him back to the railway station, the pastor turned to him, laid his hand on his shoulder, and asked, 'Dear Friend! We live in a great time. Tell me! Do you believe in God?' Buber reassured him that he should have no concern about him on this point. The pastor leaves but as Buber returns from the station and reaches the exact spot at which the question was asked, he pauses. 'Had he told the truth?' he asks himself.  Does he believe in the same God as whom the pastor assumed his reassurance was about? Buber tells himself if it means a God about whom one can talk in the third person, then the answer is no. If it means a God to who one can speak in a living dialogue of call and response, out of one's joy and one's suffering, the answer is yes.

But a better word than 'belief' is trust. God is one in whom one can trust, dwell and live in fullness, a reality shaping presence, not a concept or an object, however, exalted.

This is why, when I first read Buber, at university (though not for university) I was touched deeper than by any other author (except possibly Hesse, who nominated his friend, Buber, for the Nobel Prize for literature for his Tales of Hasidim). It was because he responded to God in the way I imagined was the fullest way possible - as the presence that asks you, continuously, 'where are you?' as he asked Adam in the Garden. Meaning what account can you make of yourself in the invited journey to be ever more fully human. An act of grace and work that completes creation, brings the divine sparks contained within it to a bursting light in their redeeming.

A rabbi was asked where God was and he replied wherever a human being lets God in. We let God in when we hallow every thing as an end in itself, a particular of unfolding glory, and where we stop talking about God (good) and entrust ourselves, vulnerably, to living in God. That I do this all too rarely is undoubtedly true but Kramer's book is a happy and challenging reminder to stay on the trail of it - of finding God in a vulnerable, open dialogue with the world that allows everything its unique voice.


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