Liverpool 2018

THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN OUR BIBLICAL TRADITIONS.

The Old Testament

Jesus came into our world, a world in which there was deep understanding of communion with God.  The traditions into which he was born had rich experiences of communion with God. Such obvious conceptions as the Fatherhood of God, the covenant binding God and People in an embrace of love, God as husband longingly pursuing an errant wife (Hosea), speak of a communion, of presence, of experienced love.  There is an intimacy in this love that speaks of a sacrament most holy, a sacrament divine.

  There is the familiarity of God walking in the Garden of Eden, of Moses wanting to see God, to touch the Presence, and being satisfied in God walking by.    Above all, and less anthropomorphically, there is the Word of God. The prophetical visions, the words spoken so that prophets can declare, “Thus says the LORD”, speak of closeness, a concern, and an imperative:  I will be your God and you will be my people.  And Israel’s prayers, the Psalms, witness to intimate conversation with a God who listens to our prayer.  There is God’s taking on the task of Good Shepherd (Ezekiel 34) in order that protective presence be ever with God’s people.

The New Testament

Intimate as Israel’s experience of God was, loving as the words spoken are, there was an even closer intimacy as the very words of love spoken became flesh.  The words of the Old Testament are enfleshed in the New. There is no Old Testament word that quite matches koinōnia, the New Testament word for ‘communion’.   The Son of God proclaimed that the will of God must be done on earth as in heaven.  The prayer our Saviour gave us is an assurance, an embrace of God’s presence, a stewardship so caring that we need fear no evil for we are delivered from all evil (if we as one live in communion with the Son).  For the Son is with us all days, even to the end of the age.

  This communion is, however, to be experienced corporately, that is, in the body of disciples.  It is not a private embrace, a private adoration. That communion with the Son is experienced in our praying together, in our service in and to the world of God’s people, in our embrace of the halt and the lame, the loved and unlovely.   We experience presence as we live communion. That communion with God in Jesus is experienced most intimately when it is given, when it is poured out as the Son poured out his life on the Cross. The koinōnia, the all-being-one is a doing in our time and place, what Jesus did in his time and place.  It is a doing with and in Christ. We are, in all that we do, in all that we say, in all that we are, as brother Paul taught us, in Christ.

  To this end, as we pray together in worship, as we listen to and embrace the word of God, we are strengthened by the very Lord we serve.  Communion in the Body and Blood of the Son is the power given to be koinōnia, to be a ‘togetherness’, a community strengthened to hear the word and to do it.  Thank God, we are not called to serve alone. We are partners with each other, sharing together in Christ, possessing the Holy Spirit.  We are in fact shaped by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be Presence in the world; we are fed to be together as one as God is one, so that the world may feel God’s love and know that all will be well, all manner of thing will be well, as our sister taught us.

Joseph O’Hanlon.

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