Holy Spirit, Batman…
“For our good and for God’s glory, the Spirit at times will make us aware that God is with us, inexplicably, wondrously, mercifully. God’s presence brings conviction, peace, joy, and repentance.”
Because it is so difficult for us humans to fully wrap our brains around the truth of God’s presence in our lives, including this puzzling concept of “Heaven and Earth”, I think it is important at this point in our discussions about worship to unpack one of those extra churchy words; “omnipresent.” Of course, with modern technology, we can find the definition in two seconds, “widely and constantly encountered; present everywhere at the same time.” But it can still be difficult to not allow our limited perspective to put our own spin, all walls, around this definition.
I’ll give you a personal example. When I was wrestling with this idea of God’s omnipresence, my mind always went to Batman (hear me out.) The reason Batman always seemed to be able to be at the right place at the right time to catch the bad guys and save the day wasn’t because he was literally everywhere all the time, it was his bat cave. Bruce Wayne had his own fortress of solitude (I know this is getting way too nerdy now…) where he could sit there safely, removed from the rot of Gotham City, and see/hear everything through his billion-dollar gadgets and surveillance systems he had spread throughout the city.
If we can get vulnerable here, am I the only one that often thought that way about God? That God is just hanging out in Heaven keeping a watch on us all. That God’s presence is more of an all-seeing eye that is just watching and waiting for us to either sin or worship and then BAM! (smoke bomb!) “where did God come from?” Now, I’m not discounting those moments where the presence of God (as described in the opening quote) surprise us or feel more real than others, but that wasn’t Batman flying in from heaven on his Batplane, that was our renewed awareness that God is STILL there with us (meaning God doesn’t retreat.)
In the book of Acts, as the disciples were establishing the Church (those who follow the Way), they were noticing the patterns of building and rebuilding shrines and sanctuaries to contain and experience the presence of their gods. Essentially, this was the ancient Roman version of “putting God in a box.” When Paul addressed these people, he did not vilify or condemn them, instead he showed them compassion and gave them a truth that set them free from their vain attempts capture and impress a God that is already lovingly in their midst. The paraphrase found in Eugene Peterson’s The Message paints a beautiful picture of our understanding of God’s presence from the words of Paul.
“When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with. “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!” (Acts 17: 23-27)
Remember, God is not omniperspective (think bat cave), God is omnipresent. This means that corporate worship and expressions of praise do glorify God, but they don’t impress God in order to get more attention from a God who is trying to find the best space to make their presence known.
Through the prevenient grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, God is everywhere. God is in our auditoriums and our AA meetings. God is in our concerts and our campgrounds. God is in our chapels and in our schools. God is in the lives of Christians and in the lives of atheists. And through the Holy Spirit, God continues to call God’s image bearers to worship, which is love expressed God’s way.
What ways can you express that love for God today? In what spaces do you need to be more aware of God’s presence?