Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God’? – Joel 2:17
Where is their God? This is a question not only asked by Israel’s detractors as quoted by the Prophet Joel, but by those of every age who like to cast doubt on – and among – the people of God. Too often, it is a legitimate question. We ask it ourselves as we see nations trying to annihilate each other. We ask it when we see congregations in conflict. We ask it when we see perversions of the faith that Jesus taught.
Sometimes we get the idea that our piety will prove our faith and we can ‘show off God’. If we get out on the street corners and pray in public, people will surely realize that we are Christians. If we make sure everyone knows how much we give to the church, and how many charities we support, they can’t help but discern that we are followers of Christ. If we have our name engraved on church furnishings or in the sidewalk of a Cathedral, won’t people at least think: Ah, there is their God!?
The Prophet Joel and Jesus speak with one voice. God is not interested in outward signs of piety. “Rend your hearts and not your garments; when you pray, pray in secret.” Our God is not honored by flashy bumper stickers, but in broken hearts and humble service. Where is God? In hospitals, ghettos and prisons, gathered around our kitchen tables and altars, in nursing homes and shelters for the homeless and abused; in the office of a marriage counselor and in the waiting room of an emergency department. God is where His people need the assurance of the cross. It is not that God is ONLY there because God is ubiquitous (in all places simultaneously) and God most clearly rejoices with our celebrations and embraces our successes. Yet, just as God was strongest in the perceived weakness of Jesus as he hung on the cross, so God most clearly and dearly steps into our pain when we wonder: Where is God? As we stare stunned and perplexed at the countless troubles of our world, the answer always is the same: God is in the midst of this troubled time, in this dark place, surrounding His people with His love and care.
Be sure to live this day in the assurance that God is here! Because God is! Amen