Hidden Presence – Br. Lain Wilson

Mark 12:28-34
Psalm 81:8-14
Hosea 14:1-9

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Jesus identifies who—and what—God is. He also offers up an indictment of all the alluring temptations in sight that lead us astray from a God who all too often remains hidden from us.

“O Israel, if you would but listen to me! There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not worship a foreign god” (Ps 81:8-9). This command is repeated throughout Scripture, and yet the pages of Scripture are filled with rebuke and lament for the failure to keep to this basic commandment.

This turning away, though, isn’t surprising, because our God is often hidden. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, we crave what is visible, tangible, assured. What people, institutions, processes, products do you turn to for assurance, for certainty? What are your idols today?

How easily, and how naturally, we all turn away from this commandment.

And if Jesus says something about who and what God is, he just as assuredly tells us something about who we are. “The Lord our God.” Our relationship is fundamental, and proportional. The more we put our faith in those things that are not God, the more we draw away from who we are created to be.

If the story of Scripture, the story of our faith, is a story of failure, it is also a story of returning, again and again—returning to our God, and to ourselves. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,” the prophet Hosea says, and God will be as the dew, and you flourish as a garden (Hos 14:1, 5, 7). “As the dew”—even in returning, in this life, God often remains hidden: if we stand “in the Lord’s own garden and [hear] His Presence,” as theologian Katherine Sonderegger writes, the Lord nevertheless “walks on by, just out of sight.”[1]

Our God is, and remains in this life, a hidden God, and we will be continually tempted to turn to other sources of comfort that are more apparent, that seem more sure.

What does faith in a hidden God promise?

Fundamentally, it promises that hiddenness is not the same as absence. That once we let ourselves be in the discomfort of uncertainty and invisibility, we will find that God’s hiddenness from us is another way of saying that God is near us, present to us in ways that are both unfathomable and assured. That those departed in death, whom we remember today, are hidden and present to us. That we are fully ourselves, a people whose lives are hid with God in Christ, firmly and irrevocably fixed on God our creator. “The Lord dwells richly in His creation,” Sonderegger continues, “He stands at the heart of it. He, the King, has come to His city; He dwells there. The earth shines.”

Amen.


[1] K. Sonderegger, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, The Doctrine of God (Minneapolis, 2015), 110.

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