Transcendence and Immanence
Am I a God nearby, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? ~ Jeremiah 23:23-29
There's a song by Bette Midler that came out around 30 years ago called "From a Distance." It's a lovely song in a lot of ways, talking of a world of peace and harmony.
But the refrain of the song has always troubled me:
"God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance"
Not according to what God tells Jeremiah. God is a God who is nearby, not far off. God is immanent: working within the context of our humanity. Close to us. Involved in our lives.
The best description of God's "nearby-ness" comes in the person of Jesus.
But God is also transcendent. Wholly "other" from us. Unable to be seen physically or even understood by us except in the person of Jesus.
It is a paradox that Jews and Christians alike have wrestled with for millennia.
But even a transcendent God is not distant. Not simply watching to see what we are doing: removed and simply a spectator.
Instead God is active. Present. With us.
Beloved One, help me to always feel your presence and let it move me to be a beloved presence in the lives of others. Amen