Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Empty Chair


It is almost Memorial Day, which means summer is around the corner. Seasonal shops and restaurants (most importantly ice cream stands) are reopening in our part of New Hampshire. Summer residents are trickling back to town. Tourists will be here any day now.  

I finally hauled our wicker furniture out of the shed and arranged it on our screened porch. As I write this I am sitting outside for the first time this season, enjoying the rumblings of a warm thunderstorm and listening to the birds.  

God speaks so clearly in the summer. I am always aware of Divine Presence, but summer is especially revelatory. In summer the Kingdom of God is amplified through the medium of the natural world. These days it takes very little to overwhelm me with the palpable presence of the Divine.  

At such times I marvel how so many people can miss the Presence of God - even religious and spiritual people. People search for an experience of God. They pray faithfully and meditate for hours. They study scripture and do all sorts of spiritual exercises, hoping to catch a glimpse of Glory. They read spiritual books and go on retreats. Meanwhile I could not escape God’s Presence if I wanted to. And why would I want to? 

Years ago a man told me that during his daily devotions he placed an empty chair before him and imagined Jesus sitting in that chair. He said it helped his prayer life to picture Jesus sitting across from him. I do not need to imagine ChristI see Christ. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

The apostle wrote, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” I know what he is talking about. There is no longer a “me.” There is only Christ, the All in All. The Eternal Logos dwells in this earthly tabernacle we call the body. God shines through every inch of the natural world. Christ is in every saint and sinner, in every Christian and atheist, in every Jew and Muslim, every Republican and Democrat that I meet. No one is outside God.  

Nothing that happens in life is outside the work of God. Every event bears divine fingerprints. Scripture says, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That is why the political rhetoric of this election year does not frighten me.  

Both political parties are warning of a dystopian apocalypse if the opposing presidential candidate wins the election. It is certainly true that bad things may be on the horizon for our country. Yet it is still true that all things work together for good for those with eyes to see.  God works even through the plans of the enemy.  

Every face bears the image of God. Jesus peers through every set of eyes. In every chair Christ sits. We can use techniques like an empty chair to imagine Christ, but that the chair is not so empty after all. In the empty places is the fullness of Divine Presence. As Scripture says, “Christ is all, and is in all.”