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The Great I Am

June 6, 2022

’Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” (John 8:58)

The following quote was taken from the kitchen wall of Saint Benedict’s Monastery:[1] “I was regretting the past and fearing the future.  Suddenly, God was speaking, ‘My name is I am.’ I waited.  God continued, ‘When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard.  I am not there. My name is not I was.  When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there.  My name is not I will be. When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I am.’”

God is beyond time and space: “I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be”(Proverbs 8:23).  God knows everything that has happened, and everything that will happen.  We do not.  One of the hardest things to do in life is to live in the moment.  We are filled with regrets about the past and concerns for the future.  But God comes to us in the moment. He is with us now.  He is the Great I Am!  God wants us to live in the moment, with him.  That’s why he keeps the curtain closed on our future.  He shields us from the future, and he has forgiven us for past mistakes. 

As we noted last week, God sent his Spirit to be with us every day.  For those who believe and make space in their hearts for God, he lives within us, and the more time we spend with him, the more space he takes up in our hearts.  In his sermon to those gathered on that Pentecost when God sent the Spirit to the people, Peter confirmed that what had just happened: “These people are not drunk as you suppose.  It’s only nine in the morning!  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’” (Acts 2: 15-17a).[2]  

Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday, when we reaffirm our belief in the Triune God—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The people had been familiar with and had prayed to God the Father their entire lives.  And Peter reminded them that they had met Jesus, God the Son: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know . . . This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan . . . and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death . . . (Acts 2: 22-24). 

But this was their first encounter with God, the Spirit. The Spirit made a dramatic entrance: He enabled all of the people from different parts of the world, who spoke different languages, to understand each other!  It was such a phenomenon that some thought that they were drunk and babbling gibberish.  Peter sets them straight.  He explained that they had just met God, the Spirit: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2: 32-33). In these two verses, Peter refers to the three separate parts of the Trinity.  

The Spirit is the part of the Trinity that God sent to be with us.  Jesus called the Spirit the paraclete, from the Greek word parakletos, which means to call to one’s side.  The Spirit comes along side us to guide us. Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit will guide them, speak the truth to them, and make known to them the glory of God (John 16: 12-14).  Solomon refers to God’s wisdom: “Does not wisdom all out? Does not understanding raise her voice? . . . To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind” (Proverbs 8: 1, 4). When God sent the Spirit on Pentecost, he sent the voice of wisdom.

John reported that Jesus confirmed his existence before the beginning of time: “’Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” (John 8:58).  God is the Great I Am.  

David extols the attributes of God: “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Excerpts, Psalm 8: 1-4).  

Like David, I too am astounded that the creator of the universe—the Great I Am–cares about human beings in general and me specifically.  But Scripture confirms on every page that he loves us dearly.  For that reason, he has not left us alone.  Do you leave your loved ones alone and without resources?  Of course not!  You help your loved ones to the best of your ability.  God loves us beyond our comprehension.  He did not leave us alone to fend for ourselves.  He sent his Spirit to guide us, comfort us, and to help us—to live within us.  The Spirit of truth and wisdom is here with us in the here and now.  

God is the Great I Am, not “I was,” and not “I will be.”  

He is here with you and me.  Now. 

Prayer: Lord, we know that you are with us now wherever we are.  We know that you are with us as we slug through difficult times, as we make our way through the messiness of our lives. You are with us to bring us peace—to set aside our worries and our fears.  Forgive our unbelief.  You caution us to take one day at a time, and that you are with us during each moment of every day.  Help us stay focused in the present and to use the gifts and skills you have blessed us with to do your will.  Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] Jim Palmer, Ed., The Pocket Book of Prayers (2005), W Publishing Group, p. 125. The location of the monastery is not identified.

[2] The Scripture texts for Holy Trinity Sunday are Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; John 8:48-59.

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