Seeing God in the Presence of Community

BY NATALIE FINSTAD

Epiphany: a manifestation or perception of the essential nature of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking; an illuminating discovery or realization.

The Episcopal Church is currently celebrating the Season after Epiphany, a season in which we journey alongside the earliest followers of Jesus as they begin to realize who Jesus is and the profound impact his identity has on their lives. I love this season because it offers me a chance to examine my ever-evolving understanding of Jesus and ask myself, "How is my experience and understanding of God impacting the way I live my life?" A question that undeniably generates a response linked to my current experiences.

This year, I am finding comfort in an understanding of God as the One who is present to us at in times of dismay. Gary Commins, Episcopal priest and author, writes about the importance of understanding God to be present, even if the world isn't getting "better," in his book "If Only We Could See: Mystical Vision and Social Transformation."

What if our hopes are not holy visions but placebos or pipe dreams? What happens when faith and hope shrivel up and  love is left without its comrades in activism?

These are questions one must ask with all the company of earth whose deepest dreams have been perennially deferred or persistently dashed. The questions must be shouted with many persons of many oppressed people, with moaning and with mourning.

What if the revolution of God is permanent only because it never succeeds? And: if God's realm is never to come, how will we seek it as if it could?

Often, in the work of community engagement or justice, we can get caught up in the idea that we need to see "results." And, while it is of course important to see impact, it is important for me to remember that at times the impact is the presence of Christ not the change in an external situation. In a political and social climate that seems to bring daily reminders of challenge, I am heartened by the ways that I am discovering God in the constant presence of ECM and our partners in the quest for a world that looks more like God's dream. They manifest a God present in all times and disrupt the idea that our hope lies only in "things getting better." They enable me to see God as the one who is always alongside us, giving us the courage to show up constantly as messengers of love in our communities, regardless of the immediate outcome.

It is my hope that you will find signs of that God in this Season — that you will be moved by the faithful witness of people who pray, march, and listen as to how God is calling is to respond faithfully in our communities.