Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jacob's Ladder - Places Of God's Presence

"Taking one of the stones of the place, he (Jacob) put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him..."Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you". Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." - Genesis 28:11-17 NRSV

I was thinking today as I drove home about the places and times I have felt or seen God (I know that 'no one has seen God' according to the bible - whatever, I'm using artistic license). It is usually at times when I am overcome by stress or anxiety and suddenly there is a moment when everything is pushed completely out of the way for a little while and the Lord overwhelms me. I can almost guarantee it happens whenever I look at the stars. I love the whole experience because it reminds me that there is God - that being, a greater than which cannot be concieved (as I remember Descartes for my philosophy exam) - and he is so much bigger than all of our idiotic human rules. I remember God as I kneel in mass and think that yes Jesus is in the elements, but that God is in everything, and that the whole of creation is being redeemed. It is amazing.

I feel as if I truly understood the greatness of God, nearly every experience could be one of His awe-inspiring presence. I think those moments, like Jacob's realization that God was there, and he did not know it, are proof that we get so caught up in our own lives that we miss the great truth that remains hidden to us. It is that God is always at work and has been since creation, as Christ teaches us in St.John's gospel. It is that our very existence is contingent on God.

Hope is to me one of the most - if not the most important feeling or virtue. I sense immense hope when I realize that in a similar but not identical way Buddhism teaches, this world is an illusion. I have to study Nietzsche's theory that the supernatural realm is an illusion for my philosophy exam, but I believe the opposite. Our human realm is built upon the supernatural reality of God. We struggle to live in the presence of that truth, it is nearly to much to comprehend - maybe it is to much to fully comprehend - and that is why people hide from it. Because if Jesus is the centre of the universe it naturally has to effect my life.

Indeed the whole world is being sanctified, it is being redeemed, it is winning and the world is overcome by grace. As Romans 5:20 says "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more", and in 8:21 "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God". Finally we are assured that one day it will be finished and we are told "the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:15)

But until then when the whole world is reclaimed God's kingdom, I think we will feel those Jacob's ladder moments, those places we encounter God's overwhelming presence. I remember at Bible School in England running around a loop everyday, that time has been the proudest of my life, and everyday I would stop for breath at a pond and pray, it was a place I would meet God. I remember walking into Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and looking up at the ceiling and being taken up in the grandness of it all, the beautiful stain-glassed windows and the light shining through them. These are times when I feel like I can see the truth which the prophets constantly remind us. God is in control! he is ruling the universe. No matter what happens, the greatest tragedy ever, God is still in the throne of the universe - as Rob Whittaker said was the message of Joel.

So this week as I go into exams, tonight as I go to work, next month as I search for a job, and all of these experiences fill me with fear and almost a feeling of the vacuum of God, I must remember the lesson of Jacob's Ladder, the lesson that God is Sovereign (and that this doesn't just mean he predestines people to hell before they're born, lol - always need a shot at hyper-calvinism) but that at the end of the day, when the bills come, and the job is stressful, and the family rejects you because you're becoming a Catholic (an experience we all have) - that one day, it will all be done, Christ will reign, the Kingdom of the World will become the Kingdom of God and his Son, and they will all live happily ever after. (the elect at least).

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