God’s Presence by Resident, Rev. Helen Taylor

I really like what Chaplain Laura did last week with the disciples’ encounters with Jesus and the
Holy Spirit — presence, peace, and power. We’re familiar with Jesus’ greeting, “peace be with you,” and
the wind and fire of Pentecost. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is an important part of our Christian walk, too.
This raises two questions. First, what IS the Holy Spirit? It’s God’s Presence that Jesus WAS. Then
when Jesus left, he promised that God’s Presence would be with us through the Holy Spirit. Second, how
do we experience that? We think of that happening in church, worship, or personal devotional time. Some
of us have even had the blessed experience of the Holy Language of speaking in tongues. That may be
an important part of our discipline. But are there other ways, too?

I think Jesus gave us a clue during his remarkable conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria.
Jesus asked for a drink, offered her Living Water, then asked her to go get her husband and bring
him back. When she said she didn’t have a husband, Jesus agreed and said, “You’ve had five, and the
one you have now isn’t your husband.” Her jaw dropped and she replied, “Oh, I see you are a prophet!
Well, we worship God on this mountain. You say the temple in Jerusalem is the only place where God is.”
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither
on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… But the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers
will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God
is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:21-24).

Jesus reveals that God’s presence can’t be contained in a physical location. I take that to mean
that God’s loving presence is not just to be found in church or only in what we call worship. I most frequently experience God’s Presence in worship. I’ve even been moved to tears standing in empty worship spaces — cathedrals in Europe with their high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. God’s presence is strong in Brill Chapel, during Vespers, and in quiet times. God’s presence is strong in my little
home chapel (once a second kitchen).

Rev. Helen Taylor and a cygnet of Owen and Phyllis the Epworth Villa Swans

I’ve also felt God’s Presence powerfully in nature, even as a child, lying down on the warm curve
of concrete covering our storm shelter and looking at the stars. Then there are sunsets, sunrises, rainbows, majestic mountains, Niagara Falls, still lakes, the silence of deep woods, and strong ocean waves. And, of course, God’s Presence and love come to us through people and even through books.

Perhaps these things happen to you, too, but you might not call them God’s Presence. That might
even sound sacrilegious. I confess that this view comes from my own faith and practice of trying to be
open to God’s Presence in every moment. That feeling in my heart of deep awe that often brings tears is
the same in both worship and nature. This is what is in my heart to share here with love.