Lesson 5: God’s Presence in the Word

Holy CommunionI belong to a tradition that claims God is primarily present among us in the spoken Word. It acknowledges the importance of the sacraments, but thinks they are ordinary water, bread, and wine unless accompanied by the Word. So, too, it recognizes the Bible as God’s Word in a secondary sort of way until someone proclaims the Gospel found within it to another person. The scriptures certainly record what we regard as the authentic speech of God uttered in the past. However, those words do not make God present until they are spoken again in the here and now.

My people feel comfortable with this understanding because God is identified as the Word of God throughout the Bible. Although this is described in various ways in the ancient world, it still works to see God coming to us through the Word in our scientific world.

In our world, a living person is available to us as a body that we can see, touch, and feel. A person also has a voice that changes those to whom it is addressed. If God is a person with a living presence among us, God must have a body and a voice.

In past lessons, we have spoken of God being bodily present in the sacraments, the church (aptly called the Body of Christ), and individual Christians speaking with one another or to the world. God speaks when these different kinds of “body” read aloud the scriptures, proclaim the gospel, participate in the community’s discussions, sing the liturgy, preach in the church gathering, and speak to the world on behalf of God.

Even though it might not always be acknowledged, the spoken Word implies “Thus says the Lord.” That is not to dismiss attempts to speak God’s Word that acknowledge, “This is how God speaks to me.” God’s Word is a continuing conversation enriched by many voices.

I think pondering God’s presence in this context offers a helpful and creative way to understand the crucifixion and resurrection in our time and place. The Crucifixion is understood as the world’s attempt to silence God’s voice. The authorities think the execution is necessary to silence one person in order to save a nation. The resurrection proclaims that God’s Word endures forever among us. Christ still speaks.

None of this minimizes the importance of the Bible as the canon against which all claims of God’s presence are tested. It also does not deny that reading the scriptures alone in your room might uncover God’s presence in our midst. However, it does recognize that the most dynamic experience of God is hearing someone proclaim, “God loves you!” It is then that our hearts are warmed and our lives transformed.

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