The God of the Bible is said to be omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) as well as omnipresent — that is, everywhere. But how do we know the latter of those three attributes to be true? This week’s clergy discuss the evidence of God’s presence in every part of their — and their congregations’ — daily lives.
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon
Director, Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island
One of the innovations that our forefather Abraham gifted the world was the belief that God is not limited to just being “up there,” but is also “down here.” He taught that God is equally present whether in a spiritual or a physical context. Judaism teaches that the world we know is an expression of God’s oneness, and everything we see, feel, touch, smell, hear and experience is part of God’s creation. The Hasidic master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem took this belief one step further by stating that God’s energy and light are constantly flowing into the universe to re-create it on a moment-to-moment basis, just as the sun is constantly renewing and emitting its rays. Along these lines, God is not a distant force, but rather an active presence, very involved in the changes that take place around us. With all the above in mind, we can relate to God not as a distant destination for our belief, but rather as an active player in our daily lives. When we talk to God it is not a long-distance call. This is the basis for the belief in divine providence, which means when things happen in our lives or in the world around us, it is not happenstance or coincidence, but rather because there is a purpose behind the scenes. When we live life with this in mind, everything takes on an added dimension. Life, with all its ups and downs, has a purpose, and we feel God’s presence every day.
Senior pastor, Christian Cultural Center’s Long Island Campus, Hauppauge
When the needs of the poor and the vulnerable are met, we see a tangible expression of God’s love for humanity. Ten people may turn a blind eye, but there will always be a heart moved by compassion. I see God in everyday life when we find ourselves teetering at the intersection of selflessness and selfishness. Many of my parishioners are hardworking people who are by no means wealthy, but whenever there is a natural disaster, many are out raising funds and collecting goods for the victims. I see God in the ability of a natural disaster to bring members of the community together who might normally be at odds, or divided by race, ethnicity or politics. In the Bible, Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35). In the face of injustice, a soul stirred to fight for justice is an example of God in everyday life. And when I look into the eyes of my 17-month-old daughter, eyes that convey a message of trust, safety and security in her father’s arms, I most certainly see God in my everyday life.
The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder
Rector, St. Mary’s Church, Amityville
I open St. Mary’s each day of the week to prepare for Matins and Mass. Borrowing a custom from St. Theresa, the first thing I do before unlocking various doors, switching on many lamps and lighting numerous candles, is to kneel in the doorway to the sanctuary, and simply say, “Good morning, Your Majesty.” Then the day can commence. I am as aware of God’s presence as I am of the rising of the sun; I sense his warmth near me as I would that of a friend or loved one, only more so.
So many people today feel that their religion “doesn’t work.” I hear that a lot. Perhaps the reason for this is that they are confusing the faith with magic. God’s presence in our lives does not insulate us from strife and difficulty, or even danger. What it does, is assure us that he is ever with us — guiding, strengthening and healing. As he helps us with every challenge, we grow ever stronger, equipping us to be more and more useful in helping others through their trials and tragedies. His presence instructs us thunderously that we are here to make this planet a better place, even for those who don’t know him. As the old expression goes, “He who marries the spirit of the age in this generation, will be a widower in the next.” Indeed, everything contemporary and important eventually becomes an anachronism. Everything, that is, except God, who loves us and is ever in our midst.