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Knowing Absence

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away... If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there."

-Ps. 139:1, 8

The psalmist is clear that God knows each of us intimately, and not only that, but God is with us always. Every single minute. Never absent.

I think it's hard to understand that. We know what presence is, but we know what absence is as well. In absence our hearts long to be reunited with our beloved. In absence we yearn to be together again, to sit next to, to listen to, to hug. We know what absence is, which makes presence all the more powerful, connected, fulfilled.

I've experienced this recently. Mark was away in Chicago for a week. Thanks to technology, we were able to connect every day. Catching up on news. Catching up on the weather. But really, just hearing each other's voices, this one each of us have known for many, many years. So when we saw each other late in the week, it was joyful. It was more than catching up. It was time spent with someone who knows me intimately. Who knows what questions to ask. Who knows when to be goofy, and when to listen.

But then we parted again, this time so I could reunite with more people I love. Lauren. Ben. LINCOLN. If only for the briefest time, it was SO GOOD. To be together. To sit next to. To listen. To hug. To watch. To remember what it was like to be a young mother, with an infant exploring this big wide world.

I miss them. It's not enough time. It never is. You grandparents out there know this. But it will have to do, until we can find space again and time when we can gather, and listen, and laugh, and be loved and love.

Hang with me. Because in some important ways, this is parallel to our relationship with God in Christ. Christ was here a while on this earth. And he developed some really deep relationships with his friends. And then he was killed (and went away.) And in their new grief, he came back for a while to explain some more things to them. And then he bodily left them again.

Absence. Presence. Absence. A new presence.

But the good news? He remains with us. Now. Today. This moment. Remember when he said, "whenever two or three are gathered..."? Remember when he said, "do this and remember me?" As God's love abides within us, so does Christ. Kind of like when we remember our husband/daughter/grandson, when we remember our mother/father/ grandmother, when we remember those we love, they are present with us. Their laugh. Their smile. The way they show their love. Their goofy sense of humor. Present, even if bodily absent.

Christ lives in us, and therefore we share a bit of him with whomever we meet. We share him in the cup of cold water, we share him in the cans of food for the food pantry. We share him with the faces we meet at the Resale Shop, and when we pass his peace each Sunday.

So hug someone you love. Tell them you love them. Enjoy the time you are given in their presence, and then store it away for when you are apart, one from another.

But also remember, your Lord is here. He is with you now. Okay, you may not be able to take a selfie with him, but you can rejoice because he has surrounded you with people who not only love him, but love you too. Really. All of you. Even the goofy parts.

I continue serving in Christ,

Pastor Toby

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