Ann Pedersen, Professor of Religion
“How can reason tolerate that the divine majesty is so small that it can be substantially present in a grain, on a grain, over a grain, through a grain, within and without. . . entirely in each grain, no matter how numerous these grains may be? And how can reason tolerate that the same majesty is so large that neither this world nor a thousand worlds can encompass it and say ‘behold, there it is’? Yet, though it can be encompassed nowhere and by no one, God’s divine essence encompasses all things and dwells in all.” Martin Luther, quoted on p. 122 of Elizabeth A. Johnson’s Ask the Beasts
Does God really encompass all things and dwell in all? Luther emphasizes this over and over, especially when he writes about the sacraments. The author of Colossians says that God was pleased to dwell. Might faith be the acceptance and realization that God not only dwells in all but is jazzed to do so? I’m not sure what it says about tornadoes or floods or lethal viruses (like Coronavirus) but this statement of faith simply astounds (shocks or surprises) me.
God doesn’t just hang around on the edges, or look on from afar, as in the horrible theology of “God is watching us from a distance.” I once heard a theologian remark that when I look into the mirror and I know that God is pleased to dwell in me and me in God – this is the posture of faith – to receive divine pleasure from recognizing that God loves and delights in creation enough to actually set up camp and hang out. This only reinforces the crazy theology of John 1, that God became flesh and dwells among us. Incarnation and creation are bound together in God enjoying God’s time with the whole cosmos.
So, if God loves the world, or really the cosmos as the text more accurately states, then loving creation means hanging out and dwelling in creation, finding pleasure in it. All things. That’s the rub and the difficulty for faith. All? From the oceans to the coronavirus? From my family to my enemy? Jesus includes all – from the care of the sparrow to the love of the enemy. You can’t love or find pleasure with someone or something if you don’t live into, dwell among, or maybe better said – hang out with. Spend time.
God’s pleasure is rooted in God’s overflowing love for the world, God’s generous and gracious embrace of all. But surely God knows how insane and evil “all” can be … after all, God created all. (I will address the evil, vile, and insane later). For now, I realize that dwelling is much more onerous than I can imagine. It takes time and work. We are dwelling in uncertain times and in places and with creatures we’d rather ignore or even hate. What does faith say to this?