John E. Marshall, Jr.'s Blog

Page 1 - Holy Thursday

Page 2 - Emergence

Page 3 - Where Is God Located?

Page 4 - Words

Page 5 - Faith, Hope & Love

Page 6 - What God's Voice Telling Us

Page 7 - Are We Wrapped Up Too Much in Earthly Things?


Where Is God Located?

by John E. Marshall, Jr. | 2015

Let me ask you this. Where is God when you speak and pray to Him? Do you put your hands together and look up into the sky? Do you simply bow your head down and close your eyes, hoping, wherever God is, the words of your mouth will meet His ears? Do you ever think about that? Where is God located?

If we are honest with ourselves, we all perceive there are places where God isn’t. Places where we feel like we are all alone. We all, at times, if we are honest, feel a sense of darkness from time to time, some feel it a majority of time, and we worry, lament, and feign in the surroundings that we find ourselves. Like Jesus’ followers that were in the boat with Him, in our Gospel this morning, Mark 4, we become very afraid of the storms and winds around us, feeling, certainly, they will deal the cause of some sort of demise to us. If we admit it, these are the times when we think God is far away from us or even forget that there is even a God at all. If we recall, there were more than a few times that the apostles felt this way. In the immediate hours after they saw Jesus die on the cross, is one stark example. Another is when Jesus left in the ascension. Like us, there were plenty of times where the apostles’ hearts wavered and Jesus had to come in and say “Peace” to bring them to calm. Christ, after telling them about His impending death, they were afraid, and He tells them in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Later, in the same Chapter, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Later Jesus makes the expression that we will make to each other in a few minutes, to further quell their fears, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

So, I will ask that question, again. Where is God when you speak and pray to Him? The answer is, God is right there with you. Not over there or any place that is far away. He is right there with you. Inside of you. This is what we are to remind ourselves of in the season of the Pentecost. In our tradition, we are in the 4th Sunday of the Pentecost. We are reminded that there is no place where God is not there. Amidst all the storms and the winds that we encounter, God is always there, right inside of us. Right inside all of us. There is no place or no one where Holy does not reside. When I look over at our church member, Renee Matthews, I see God is there. Holy resides there. When I look at Martha Hill, I see God is there. Holy resides there. When I look at Ken Warmack, God is there. Holy resides there. When I look at Johnny, or Satya, Debbie, Don, anyone in this Church, God is there. Holy resides there. When you go out to anywhere outside of this church and encounter anyone or any of God’s creation, you can rest assured, God is there, too. Everyone and every place in all of God’s creation resides the Holy. You have heard me often say that everywhere is a burning bush there to teach us and we are always standing on hallowed ground. That is Truth with a capitol T. I submit that whenever we see evil in this world, it is because someone or some group of people have allowed the storms and the winds of this world to cloud them from seeing the presence of God within them and around them. It comes from someone who has hardened their heart and has allowed their eyes to become cataract to the presence of God within them and around them.

I remember the evening of the Sandy Hook massacre of all those children, Vincent Onyema asked me how I could find a way in the name of God that something like that could happen. I told him that it happened because someone had been clouded to the presence of God both within him and outside of him. As I reflect on that horrible event that happened in Charleston, South Carolina, last Wednesday evening, I have to come to the same conclusion. Let us now take a moment of silence to pray for all the victims and their families, friends, and congregation of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church.

Did you know that Emanuel or Immanuel, with an I, means “God is with us”? Even amid that tragedy, those folks at that church showed us God was with them, didn’t they? The Grace that they showed this week was nothing short of remarkable. What you witnessed right there was Holy. When you recognize the Holy within you and within others you will find your greatest strength because you recognize that God is within you. Few of us have experienced that type of heartache and suffering. That is not to diminish the heartache and suffering that you have gone through or are presently going through. Know that you have that same access to Holy. When Jesus appeared to the apostles after they thought He was truly dead and they would never see Him again, Jesus appeared to them and brought up that whole “Peace” and “Holy Spirit” thing again in John 20. It says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” You want evidence of the Holy Spirit within you. I ask you now to take a deep breath. Feel our Lord breathing on you. You see, you, at every moment, have that type of close access to God. You have that type of close access to love and all the strength you need. Those storms or winds in your life don’t stand a chance against that type of love and that type of strength. And that type of love and strength becomes evident when you show the respect of seeing the presence of God with everyone else, too. When you display all the compassion, kindness, and love that you can muster to all that is your neighbor and that means everybody. This is what defines a true follower of Christ. It is how they treat everyone, no matter what they look like, where they came from, or who they are.

Holy resides when you try to erase all the lines that are between you and others. Evil always resides in places where lines are drawn. The drawing of lines leads to categorization. Categorization often leads to fear and ignorance. Often, fear and ignorance lead to prejudice, disrespect, and the devaluation of another. Prejudice, disrespect, and the devaluation of others are the poisons that often lead to the violence that we have seen lately, especially last week. If you are still drawing lines, you are part of the poison and the problem. Harsh truth, I think.

Sadly, we draw too many lines when we push our beliefs on those who do not believe in what we do or when we become too insular and just remain among ourselves. Our purpose for coming to church should be for our gaining of greater strength, love, and understanding so that we can go out into the world and spread that greater strength, love, and understanding in the world.

As you know, our rector, Father Narain, retired at the end of April. We are a church that is facing great transition. We have formed a search committee for a new rector and will be passing out a survey very soon. It will be a time for all of us to take stock of who we are as a community of faith. I don’t know about you, but when I reflect on this place and what it has done and what it has done for the community, my chest expands with the greatest of pride. We have made partnership, specifically with Midwest Workers, to help clothe those who are poor and underemployed every week. We open our doors to help mothers meet and help each other deal with the various issues that have to be dealt with in motherhood. We open our doors for Occupy organizations and others that fight the injustices of this world. Every Sunday before Thanksgiving we feed the homeless and dine with them. We have held basketball tournaments for the youth of this neighborhood to have fun with each other and compete for moneyed prizes with the participation of the Chicago Police who refereed the games and fed the kids during the event. We have had bone marrow drives, opened our doors for CAPS meetings and AA meetings, and even opened our doors to churches that are not of our denomination to celebrate upstairs from us every Sunday. On Maundy Thursday, we were all given bags of gold dollar coins to give out to the needy that we see on the street. We even rent out space to a Health Boot Camp and a ballet studio so that the community can be healthier and express themselves in art. We have much of which to be proud as a church that follows Christ and His ways. There is so much fertile soil here in which to grow and expand even further. Insular we are not. God is truly here in this place. God is truly here with all of us. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated our 172nd year of existence and service to the community. Look around at this place. This is an awesome awesome place. What has always struck me about this place is that providence always seems to drop into our laps, probably because we do look out so much not for just ourselves but for the community and those that hurt and hope in this world. The times ahead might seem like a Goliath to you, like in our first reading today, in 1Samuel 17. But fret not. God is with us. Always has been. Always will be.

It is easy to become afraid and dismayed by the storms and the winds like the people in the boat in our Gospel reading of Mark 4 this morning. But Jesus is there for you, for us, to calm those winds and those storms and say, “Peace! Be still!” In this world of ours, it is easy to feel ill at ease and be shaken by events that seem not to go our way. My message to you is also, Peace, be still. God is with you. God is with us. Have faith. We always feel like we have to fight. We do not have to fight. All we have to do is recognize that God is with us. Right here. Real close so that we can tap into His strength. Tap into His Grace. His love is as close to you as your breath. All you have to do is to stand for what you believe in in your heart and make your steps accordingly. And as I always say, make your every step a prayer; a prayer of praise and a prayer of strength. We all worry much too much, especially when we know that God is with us. God got you. Just like He had you last time and the time before that and that other time and that time after and before that. It makes you wonder why do we ever lose faith. It is because we lose sight of the fact that God is always there. Not over there. Not far away. God is always right here. Our faith tells us this. This Holy Spirit is always whispering this to you, if you’d only listen. That light is right there in your heart. Right there in your soul. When you pay attention to it, that light beams right out of you to shine on everybody else. Pay attention to that light inside and let it beam out of you. That is where God is.

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Social Security Administration:
Chicago Metropolitan Area Work Incentives Coordinator · January 1983 to present · Chicago, Illinois I am the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding people with disabilities and work. I am also the point person for the agency in the city for issues surrounding the homeless. I represent the agency in coalitions boards, and other organizations to establish joint policies, programs, and events that seek to engender and facilitate work for people with disabilities and help to entitle the homeless to Social Security benefits. I am also the coordinator for 28 Work Incentive Liaisons/Technical Experts located in all 20 SSA offices in metro Chicago.

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University of Chicago:
Masters · School of Social Service Administration · Chicago, Illinois

Northeastern Illinois University:
Class of 1984 · Sociology · Chicago, Illinois

Mendel Catholic College Preparatory High School
Class of 1977 · Chicago, Illinois

Bradley University
Peoria, Illinois

John E. Marshall, Jr.





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