"Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Acts 1:1a I’ve had people, on more than one occasion, say that they have never had an experience of God. And yet Acts 17:28 claims that it is in God that we move and have our very being. I’d like to explore why one could claim to not experience God and then move to the account in Acts 17 to relate the two.
Perhaps what some folks mean when they say they have not experienced God is that they have not experienced a voice from heaven, a flaming bush, lightning from above. They have not had a vision, a supernatural event that defies explanation, a miracle from above. If that describes you, you’re likely to be in the company of a good number of folks, including myself.
I think the problem is one of vocabulary. We don’t have the language to talk about God in this life and world. God has been shuttered up in some other realm, perhaps relating to folks in the Bible, but largely absent today. Banished by science or the ongoing course of events, God has little to do in the here and now.
And yet scripture provides a rich vocabulary to talk about God and God’s doings. God as the one who loves us. God as the source of salvation and transformation. God as the creator and sustainer of all things. I think the mistake has been not to take such language at face value. We keep looking behind the language to see what lies behind the doing. But maybe God is to be found in the doing.
So that when we experience love, we experience God. When we experience transformation, a change for the better, we experience God. When we experience all the things which sustain and uphold us, family, friends, our job, a helping hand, our natural environment, we experience God. God is to be found in the doings.
In which case, like the angels counseled in Acts, we need not look up to the heavens, waiting for God. God is here, right now, all around us, in all that upholds and transforms life. Indeed in God we move and have our being.
Dwight Welch is an ordained pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) serving First Congregational (UCC) in Sheridan WY