Happy Moltmann Monday, all! Today I’m sharing a section from Sun of Righteousness, Arise! where Moltmann is talking about the presence of God:
I am not a historian, and not a biblical scholar either. I am merely a Christian theologian. That is to say, I am a Christian who struggles with his experiences of God: with the experience of God-forsakenness and with the experience of having been found by God when I was lost….
I should like to talk about…the Merciful One who shares our suffering, and about the Holy One who goes ahead of us and leads us to the eternal home of identity. But the presupposition for both these experiences of God is the descent and self-lowering of the Eternal One into our earthly and transitory world–the immanence of the transcendent God. Or in the words of the prophet Isaiah (57:15): ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit.’ It is not just for us that it is important to experience the nearness of God in what happens to us. It is important for God too, for he wants to live among us and on this earth for ever and ever.
Okay, first, I just love that Moltmann begins discussing this big, philosophical question with such a human and humble admission. He’s just a person who follows Jesus who struggles like the rest of us to make sense of his experiences of God- ALL of them, even the moments when he can’t feel God at all. Do you see why he’s my favorite?! Other theologians would have started this section about where God is with big words and haughty pronouncements like, “We must begin at the ontological level here, blah blah blah.” Not our German friend. He’s like, “Look y’all, asking where God is is actually a pretty important question. Sometimes I feel God is with me, and sometimes I have no idea where the heck God went.”
That’s about as honest an answer as you’ll get from an academic.
But then he says this other lovely thing, which brings us (or at least me) such comfort. He says there are these two aspects of God that are both true: one part of God is merciful and stays with us, and the other is Holy and goes ahead of us to bring forth God’s future. So we feel led to a better future but not abandoned in the meantime. And that’s important to us, because for whatever other reason we want to know where God is, it’s because we long to feel the nearness of God.
AND THEN Moltmann says this: God longs to feel near to us, too. It is vital and important for God to be near us, because God has chosen to be this kind of God, who draws near in suffering, and goes ahead of us because God wants to bring us all into goodness and peace.
Sometimes I think we hesitate to believe that’s true because we’ve been told it’s too human-based, too “needy” of God to be that way, or something. But let’s be clear, here: God has designed it this way. It’s who God has consistently, continuously, and faithfully shown Himself to be: GOD WITH US. God longs to be with us, just as we long to be with God. And I’m sure God looks at us sometimes and feels this sense of divine indwelling, and other times wonders where the heck we went.
Where is God? The Merciful One, the Holy One, is beside us and ahead of us. But above all, God is with us. Always and everywhere.