We Are Welcomed into God’s Presence
Open Your Bible
Leviticus 11:45, Psalm 27:4, Isaiah 6:1-7, Ephesians 2:13-18, Hebrews 4:16, Jude 1:24-25, Revelation 4:1-11
BY Jen Yokel
Our holy God, through His grace and provision, welcomes imperfect people into His presence.
Over the past few months, I’ve been fascinated by the life and writing of Julian of Norwich. As a 14th century English woman, Julian knew a thing or two about living in a chaotic world. From political turmoil to watching her community’s decimation by the Black Death, she no doubt sensed the fear of her world and heard the pains of her neighbors. I imagine as an anchorite, a woman living out her days secluded in a church yet still available to her community, her neighbors would have come to her. I picture her as a safe, motherly presence where they could confess their fears, vent their anger, and ask for prayer.
Yet for all this heaviness, here is a woman who could write these words: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Over 600 years later, it is clear that all is still not well. This story stretches even farther back than the Middle Ages—the story of a people searching for the presence of God.
Like Isaiah, we look upon God’s glory and despair at all we can never be (Isaiah 6:1–7). Like David, we ache to dwell with God and gaze on His beauty (Psalm 27:4). We talk about a Creator who is close to creation, maybe even catch a glimpse of Him in the laughter of loved ones or the roar of the ocean, yet we also read of the throne room in Revelation and wonder how we could survive such astonishing power (Revelation 4).
What is this presence we all seek? What does it mean to find God when the world is in disarray and He feels unreachable?
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begins by reminding these faithful Christ-followers who they once were: without Christ, excluded and without hope (Ephesians 2:12). They were Gentiles, outsiders to Israel’s promises and citizenship, yet even that division, as Paul points out, is “done in the flesh by human hands” (v.11). God’s greater plan is a radical, cosmic hospitality, beginning and ending with a very real, human yet divine presence.
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). In the mystery of grace, a Rabbi who loved, healed, laughed, wept, listened, and suffered also died and returned to life. He broke down the divisions between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, God and humanity. And in an even greater mystery, we become the dwelling place of God, each of us adding rooms to a living temple more glorious than the finest building in the world, a shelter from a world of plagues and turmoil and despair.
God’s presence, His dwelling, is no longer a place “out there” that we have to reach. It’s not an exclusive club or a far-off mountaintop. It is awe-inspiring, maybe even terrifying, and it is as close as skin and bone. It defies our human boundaries and looks like a parade of misfits who are grateful for a seat at the table. It is safety and warmth and family. All are welcome and there is always room for more, always a space to come in from the chaos and rest in the hope that all just might be well.