Lesson 13: Concluding Remarks

a small group discussionI find my present thought always reflects what I have just read or what my friends who gather regularly in my home want to discuss. That leads me to think life, at least my life, is truly an ongoing conversation.

That conversation caused me to ponder God’s presence about three or four months ago. It soon forced me to consider afresh the audacity of confining that presence to any particular denomination or for that matter any one religion. Right now, I am inclined to think that is the problem leading many of our young people in our instant-messaging global society to abandon their churches, not intellectual questions about God’s existence or the persistent suffering of the innocent.

I have no difficulty thinking God is present where Jesus promises we shall find him: in the communion meal, when two or three gather in his name, and that sort of thing. However, he himself acknowledged the divine presence in other places, such as the demands and the instructions of the stranger. It, of course, is especially critical for a Christian to see God’s loving presence in the brokenness of life, beginning with the crucifixion.

That opens up questions about whether God is present in other world religions. The Old Testament seems to accommodate that with the Wisdom literature, the creation theology, and the universal Noah covenant. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of others beyond the chosen people coming into the kingdom, often claiming God is known in what people do, not what they believe.

From this context, it is possible to interpret in a more inclusive manner the primary two texts used to limit the presence, John 14: 1-31 and Matthew 28: 16-20. When Jesus proclaims nobody comes to the Father but by him he is referring to a Way, Truth, and Life. I do not associate with a closed deposit of faith claimed by any church body. The same thing goes for making disciples of all nations that sounds like teaching about following Jesus as a lifestyle, not a set of doctrine.

Putting all that together for myself means I seek and find him when I gather with other people and especially in the words we speak to one another. That includes not only what they say, but also the words they draw out of me. Both surprise me in life-changing ways.

I’d like to consider what this means by offering a series on comparative religions in the coming few weeks.

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