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I often cringe when I hear the words: “God be with us.” To me, “with” implies that God is a divine being separate from us, outside of us, called to be next to us and “on our side” rather than someone else’s.

Jesus’ disciples were terrified when he was crucified. They thought he was no longer “with” them even though he had promised to be “until the end of time (age) (world)” (Matthew 28:20). He was buried in a tomb for God’s sake! How could he ever be with them again?

But look closer at the definition. “With” also means “possessing.” Now that’s something to which I can relate.

1. accompanied by (another person or thing).
“a nice steak with a bottle of red wine”
synonyms: accompanied by, escorted by, in the company of
2. possessing (something) as a feature or accompaniment.
“a flower-sprigged blouse with a white collar”

God is not outside of us as a separate entity, usually pictured as an old white man with a beard. The Divine Presence is IN us, causing our “being,” and that of ALL creation. Everything in our multiverses “possesses” and simultaneously reveals the Divine Presence. Problems arise when we 1) do not recognize this Presence in ourselves and 2) refuse to recognize the Divine Presence in others. If we cannot see God “in us” then we are left with only our self-obsessed egos that separate us from the rest of humanity and from creation. It follows then that we cannot, or will not, see God in others. But if we realize and celebrate the Divine Presence within, then it follows that we can reflect that divinity to the world. I’m not talking here about being “a god” like emperors and pharaohs of old claimed to be, demanding adulation and fealty. I am talking about the realization that the Creative Spirit, the source of life, love, joy, and peace is IN us. That indeed is awesome.

Once we have acknowledged that we “possess” God in us, the next step is so much easier. We can see God in others. We can love our neighbors as ourselves, even our enemies because of the knowledge that they hold Divine Presence in them as well. That’s the thing about the Divine Presence. God can only be active in our lives if 1) we recognize God “being” in us and 2) reflect that “being” to others.

So much of the world’s woes revolve around the lack of this recognition. And we go back to God being “with us” but “not with them.” We even go to war over it!

Slowly (OK, the Bible says three days, but it also says it took 6 days to create the universe!) Jesus’ followers realized that he was with[in] them: when they were on the Road to Emmaus; when they broke bread together; when they ministered to each other and to the poor and the outcast. They patterned their lives around the “Way” of Jesus. They became the Body of Christ for the world.

So let’s concentrate on the second meaning of “with”: possessing something, in this case, “within” us. GOD BE WITHIN US, EVERYONE!

the action or fact of resurrecting or being resurrected.
“the story of the resurrection of Osiris”
(in Christian belief) Christ’s rising from the dead.
noun: Resurrection; noun: the Resurrection
(in Christian belief) the rising of the dead at the Last Judgment.

I had been in a tomb for three months. Something in me died on Nov 8, 2016. The knowledge of the innate goodness of America was crucified on Election Day. I had been in mourning ever since. Three months later all that changed.

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of people came together to protest looming fascism in our country. My faith and hope in America were restored. We marched together not only to confront injustice, inequality and prejudice but to actively promote justice, equality, compassion and peace. The day was such a life-affirming experience. Despair turned into jubilation.

I was awestruck. Everyone was helping each other. Strangers offered food and drink to those who didn’t have it. People helped those in wheelchairs and parents with strollers navigate the huge crowds. The atmosphere was peace-filled and joy-filled. When a bystander made a negative comment, he was presented with a flower and told that the march was for his rights as well.

My soul was resurrected. My faith and hope in the goodness of humanity were brought back to life in the streets of Manhattan on that sunny day. I experienced the Divine Presence within us all, each and every one of us, even in the negative bystander who could only smile when he received the flower. Such is the ’awesomeness’ of the realization of God within us. Stones are rolled back. Scales fall from our eyes. The glass is no longer dark. We can walk together as one and we can reveal that Divine Presence to each other and to the rest of the world. God is with us because GOD IS WITHIN US!

~Mary Aktay Easter 2017

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