This month in Orchard Kids we will be exploring the story rotation, “The Sower” based on Matthew 13.
When we want to become more aware of Divine Presence; when we feel a desire to have a relationship with God or feel a longing to make a connection with a spiritual reality, where do we look? What do we look for? How do we know if we succeed? This month presents just a few ways to open discussion with children and students and help them explore both the concept of an infinite, omnipresent, impersonal God and also the concept of a deeply personal, divine presence. Neither can be completely understood by any form, expression, or outward experience. God is everywhere, infinite in expression, and accessible to all.
God is beyond all names. “I am who I am” suggests “I am beyond any name you can give me.” Christian theology has always maintained that our words and images about God are only pointers to a mystery beyond our comprehension. Understood as metaphor, as an attempt to help us relate with a mystery beyond our understanding, the notion of God as Person can be helpful. It is in our Scriptures and in our Christian tradition. We do a disservice to the mystery that is God, however, when we literalize this notion and create the illusion that God is an entity somewhere, such as heaven, and that some people can have exclusive access to this God.
There is another way of thinking about God and prayer. It is the way of Jesus. Jesus spoke in Aramaic. When he taught people about the “kingdom of heaven/God,” when he told them they would “see God, when he spoke to them about being “children of God,” when he taught them the prayer we know as “Our Father who art in heaven,” his listeners did not hear “God” as if God were a deity far removed from them. They heard Jesus speaking of “God” as “Breath,” “Oneness,” and “Unity” resonating all throughout the universe. This was in keeping with the concept of God embedded in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is also in keeping with the first thing most Christians are told about God: God is everywhere.
Jesus urged his listeners to be attentive to this presence which he named, in accord with his religious tradition, Divine Breath, the One, and Unity present in our breathing, in our words, and in our loving. He challenged them to give the best possible human expression to this presence always with them.
Our method and our goal in teaching children and students about God should reflect Jesus’ method and goal: constantly affirm the divine presence in everyday life and activities; challenge listeners to reflect this presence in all their words and actions.
Notice the myriad of ways God’s presence is made apparent in your life. You may become aware of God’s presence through the kind words of a friend, the beautiful colors of a rainbow, or the gentle touch of a child. The words below, a translation of the Indian chant, “Oh, God Beautiful,” serve as a reminder of some of the many ways God’s presence is reflected in our everyday lives.
In the forest, you are green.
In the mountains, you are high.
In the river, you are restless.
In the ocean, thou art grave.
To the serviceful, you are service.
To the lover, you are love.
To the sorrowful, you are sympathy.
Keep a small notebook with you throughout one day, taking time to jot down the way God’s presence manifests itself to you.