One of the great Jewish thinkers and philosopher of modern times was Abraham Joshua Heschel. The European rabbi who ended up in the USA saw the teachings of the Hebrew prophets as a clarion call for social action in America eventually and worked for civil rights and against the war in Viet Nam. He was an activist for sure.
Abraham Joshua Heschel is among the few widely read Jewish theologians around. His most influential writings include Man is Not Alone, God in Search of Man, The Sabbath, and The Prophets. At the Vatican II, as representative of American Jews, Heschel persuaded the Roman Catholic Church to eradicate or modify passages in its liturgy that demeaned the Jews, or expected their conversion to Christianity. His theological works argued that religious experience is a fundamentally human impulse, not just a Jewish one, and that no religious community could claim a monopoly on religious truth. He was a man ahead of his time.
Personally, I have read his book on the Sabbath over and over. There are so many glimmers of sparkling light that shimmer off the page in revelation as I seek to set aside a day of rest for my body, soul, and spirit.
It was Heschel that said that God is a God of time rather than space in his book on Sabbath. He waxes eloquent about the great cathedrals of space that man has built for God, trying to house his presence when all the while God is wanting to give us time as a gift, if we will sacrifice time to be with him — on the Sabbath or any other day that we set aside for him.
I rise to the idea in my heart and spirit. Yes. I. Do.
But I am so enthralled with great cathedrals too. Stained glass. Light pouring through colored windows, well-crafted pews, and the great hymns echoing off the beam-ladened walls. Maybe it is a distraction for some. Maybe some miss God in these beautiful trappings. But maybe not.
Yesterday we attended a service in an old city church in downtown Dallas. It was a sweet group of believers that are meeting there weekly and have been for several years. The old building is restored and full of its original beauty. I loved the stained glasses and wooden pews. I love the paint and the arches. I wasn’t captivated by the space alone, but I felt God in every ounce of the material assets before me when the congregation lifted the words in music, “Oh the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary… flows to the lowest valley and rises to the highest mountain… ” The beauty of the whole place came alive because of the truth of those words.
I love the God of Time too. The one that comes to his people through the cycles of the festivals throughout the year revealing his nature and attributes in the passing of our days. I love the God in the field. And I love to stop and worship him during a quiet sunset by the sea. I love that God is not limited to space. He is has limited himself to our time consciousness thought, which is very magnanimous of God.
I find God in space too. Maybe I am too western and materialistic. But if God is here, as Emmanuel. He is here in time or space. I will embrace that God. He permeates, covers, and exudes from all of it.
I will take him wherever he is.