Is God on Washington Avenue?

Posted: August 27, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been looking for God in my community, Washington Street in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The evangelical Christian would would look for him in language. The presence of certain vocabulary and the absence of other vocabulary signals God’s presence for them. A Bible study held at noon for business people, and in a condo for loft dwellers would be a stamp of God’s presence. Or, they would see it visually in one person, usually with a Bible, in prayer with another person leaving the impression that evangelism was happening on Washington Avenue or in a coffee shop. But does the absence of, or presence of, certain vocabulary, a group of people studying the Bible together, or a public evangelistic encounter indicate the absence of God in his creation?

I have questions today: Does God work only in the lives of people who have made a focused commitment to him through faith in Jesus as the Christ? Is God completely absent from all else in society? Is everything that is good but does not emanate directly from a conscious submission to the grace of God in Christ just a moral principle at work in society? What does it mean for a society to have “redeeming” qualities that are never consciously, overtly connected to acknowledging Jesus as the embodied presence of God on earth–God’s Son?

Can God be present across the street in front of the hookah lounge and the tattoo parlor? Is he somewhere under a tattoo. or in a tattoo? Can he be present in the sharing of a glass of wine during dinner? Was he there in a conversation I was in one day last week between a lawyer, a coffee shop owner, a Japanese judo instructor, a man confined to a wheelchair, and myself? One is smoking, the shop owner and judo instructor will take off on an eight-mile bike ride in a moment, the guy in the wheelchair is hopeful that the judo instructor will enable him to be free of the wheelchair and on crutches again, the lawyer bought a newspaper, brought it outside, dismantled it, relegated the comics, ads, sports sections to the trash while telling me he had propped a book for me to read against my condo door.

Was the God of hope and new beginnings in any of this? Does he only show himself in the life of a committed extroverted Christian? If we see God in the design of life on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis, that means one thing. If we don’t, is it because we’re not looking for him? Or, is he not present or hiding; and if he were present we would know it? Is he a God who reveals himself or hides himself, making it a kind of game for us to find him? Just wondering.

  1. Let those who have eyes see!

  2. Your questions are good ones, and ones that I was talking with Jennifer about last night. In seminary, we talked a lot about being “missional” (which ties in with the questions Herr Wigger is asking, for those unfamiliar with the term). Yesterday I looked at a blog post that tried to help explain what being “missional” was about. One of the problems I have with missional church folks is that they often answer your questions with a vague, “God is there,” but often they haven’t been able to do the work of distinguishing between the presence of God and the presence of “a moral principle at work in society,” as you put it.

    It is often quite difficult for us to go beyond the bland generality – “God is ever-present!” – to the specific assertion – “God is present here in this way!” I like to think God is present in meaningful personal interactions like the ones you had, but then, I am a particular type of extroverted Christian. 🙂