One of my very favorite images in the Bible comes from the first chapter of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a priest, and he finds himself in exile, displaced from his homeland and far from the Temple that served as the site of his sacrificial worship. He’s in the wilderness in a foreign land, surrounded by his conquering foes, and he’s sees a vision.
It’s easy to read this text and get focused on the wild imagery; the storm, the fire, the wings, the wheels–it’s overwhelming. We forget how shocking it is for Ezekiel to not only see a vision of God, but to see God there.
Remember, in that culture, Ezekiel would have had the concept of a phyiscal spot in the Temple where God resided. As Ezekiel walked alongside the Chebar River, he would have been filled with grief that God’s home had been destroyed and that he was, literally, far from God.
In the midst of that grief, God shows up.
In that first chapter of Ezekiel, God reveals that there isn’t a place that we can travel that is away from God’s presence. Whether we stand in holy spaces or wander around lost, God is with us, as close to us as our own breath.
One of the most meaningful times of spiritual growth in my life was a season in Chicago where I worked in a corporate office. I remember walking in the hallways breathing deeply, thinking of how close I was to God even as I went about my day at work. In the midst of whatever stress or anxiety I faced, God was as close to me at work as God was during my morning prayers or Sunday worship in the sanctuary.
Next Monday a bunch of our students and teachers will head back for the beginning of a new school year. To mark this occasion, we’ll celebrate with a Blessing of the Backpacks during the Gathering on Sunday morning. This will a be a brief ceremony at the beginning of our time together, and it will serve as a reminder: God is with you. In the hallways, in the classrooms, in the ups and during the downs. God is with us, now and every day of our lives. Thanks be to God.