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God is Afoot

February, 2002



Years ago my eldest son had a t-shirt that always made me smile declaring:

"God is dead," Nietzche

"Nietzche is dead," God.

As silly as it was, its implied argument lays out a conundrum of modern times. In our world of commercialism and political agendas, God's presence is somewhere between minimized and negated. A friend recently pointed out that as a religious people we don't do much God-talk. She is right, we don't. We sometimes assume the Divine in our conversations, a present but unmentioned component. We sometimes avoid mentioning the Divine, so as to not use language that may offend. We sometimes forget the presence of the Divine. And sometimes, as people of the world, we choose to ignore God's presence. But it is clear to me that with whatever language we use, in whatever environment we are in, God is indeed present.

* God never died! God was Ruler, though his funeral lengthened. Though His mourners thickened, magic never fled. Though His shrouds were hoisted the naked God did live; Though His words were twisted the naked magic thrived; Though His death was published round and round the world the heart did not believe.

In 1647, a twenty-something George Fox, cutting across a field to a relative's house, comes to a deep awareness. "... it was opened in me that God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands. This, at first, seemed a strange word....But the Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples... but in people's hearts.... the people were his temple, and he dwelt in them."

God is everywhere. We no longer need to visit God in a burning bush, or trudge to a mountain top. Friends have long found God in all places on earth, not just in human designated sacred sites. We experience the Divine Presence along the continuum from solitary moments to gathered meeting for worship regardless of where we are.

* Though laws were carved in marble they could not shelter men; Though altars built in Parliaments, they could not order men; Police arrested magic and magic went with them, ah! For magic loves the hungry.... But magic would not tarry, it moves from arm to arm, It would not stay with them; it cannot come to harm.

It's a radical concept -- at worship, at prayer, or taking a short cut on a cold winter's night God is present. Sensing that presence is to experience magic. And there's more. After arriving at his destination, the evening held yet another "a-ha" moment, for Fox, "... I brought them Scriptures and, and told them there was an anointing within man to teach him, and that the Lord would teach his people himself." Not only is God present, the Divine is assessable to all of us--without special training or intermediary.

* God is alive.... Alive is afoot....Alive is in command. Many weak men hungered. Many strong men thrived. Though they boasted solitude, God was at their side. Nor the dreamer in his cell, nor the captain on the hill.

What magic God embraces. Swirling dancing loving growing reaching teaching. Life is not always good, not always easy. Terrible things happen-- evil things, sad things by the wheelbarrow full. An intimate relationship with God, faith, gives strength to face those things with an abundant heart, with certain knowledge of joy in the face of dreadful reality. I've experienced it, and I know. The magic of the Divine presence is in our lives for the looking. Nourishing, healing, giving hope where none should logically exist. It's often not easy. It's rarely logical. Ultimately though a life of faith, a life in relationship with an ever present Divine, is always wonderful.

Recognized or not, it is present. In experiencing of God's love in our daily lives the magic becomes real. And in becoming real the magic grows and multiplies and overflows in unexpected places and unplanned ways. There is great risk in giving a life over to God, even giving it over a little bit. But the surprises, the elation at encountering the magic unfold, is magnificent beyond language, beyond description.

The Divine is present to each of us without need of intermediary, without proscribed ritual, without formal prayer. God is directly accessible to everyone. True religion is learned from direct experience, not from books or certain words. It surmounts discordance and anguish, overwhelming them and celebrating in persistent love. Pretty fanatic stuff. Because it is so much part of the framework of Friends understanding it is easy to forget just how radical a concept it is when put from theory to a life.

* This I mean to whisper to my mind: This I mean to laugh with in my mind: This I mean my mind to serve 'Til service is but magic, moving thru the world And mind itself is magic, coursing thru the flesh And flesh itself is magic, dancing on a clock, And Time itself, the magic length of God!



God is present for the noticing. God is alive. The lessons of the Divine are there for the taking. Talk with each other of God in your life. Practice the language. Share the lessons. Magic is afoot.



(* quotations from the poem, God is Alive, Magic is Afoot by Leonard Cohen (c) 1966)

--Carl Williams, February, 2002


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