Our notions about who God is and where God is are powerful conceptions. As Franciscan priest and writer Richard Rohr has said, “Our operative image of God is the first foundation of all religion.” That working image literally shapes our understanding of ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, of God.

You may have learned as a child, as I did, that the universe is three-tiered: God’s home is heaven; our home is here on Earth; and a place of eternal death, hell, is the third layer. Taken literally, Earth was understood to be a temporary “home” on the way to one of the other two places. Like so many unexamined ideas, this simplistic image wasn’t always helpful and has likely contributed to stunted views of who God is and where God is, as well as stunted understandings of our Earth home as dispensable, temporary, expendable.

In our longing for home, many of us are looking for ways to better understand who and where God is. No longer able to imagine a vertical universe or to picture God in one-dimensional childhood images, we yearn to find God’s face here—to know God’s presence in the everyday, ordinary events of our lives. We want to be grounded and connected to the Earth we call home.

Coming home to Earth is recognizing the kingdom of God here in this place, the spirit of the living God within us and without—never fully understood and part of the mystery of God. Coming home to Earth is a way of being in the world that honors intellectual integrity,  accountability and humility about all that we do not know.

I want to leave behind vertical religious images—God “up there in heaven”—to turn toward God-with-us, here and now.

For those of us who may have learned as children to picture God “out there,” who worried about getting to heaven or who understand our Earth home as dispensable, ignoring ecological concerns or making light of environmental issues may not seem particularly critical. Imagining a replaceable Earth home, an expendable universe, however childlike that may be, comes with a cost. I want us to come home to Earth.

I am looking for God in the world in which we live. I want to leave behind vertical religious images—God “up there in heaven”—to turn toward God-with-us, here and now. In his book Coming Home to Earth (Wipf and Stock, 2016), Mark Brocker shows us how to find God here on Earth: as homecoming.

Coming home to Earth prompts care for our Earth home. Coming home to Earth helps us create healthier communities of faith, stronger neighborhoods and cities, healthier families. Coming home to Earth helps us see the whole world through the eyes of Christ, a home where we work together for the common good, for peace and for justice.

Wrestling with who and what and where God is is a lifelong challenge. I want to meet God in my neighbor and in the faces of people I might fear or dislike. I want to understand God as love and infinite compassion, a God who invites us to embody that same love and grace. I want to find God in myself—to live a God-aware life knowing the mystery and intrinsic pervasiveness of God’s presence here on this earth. I want to see the wonder of God’s presence in the rituals of daily routines and ordinary habits.

I want to live knowing we are God’s home and the whole world is the house of God. Coming home to Earth means coming home to God.

Julie K. Aageson
Aageson is the former coordinator of ELCA resource centers. She is the author of Benedictions: 26 Reflections (Wipf and Stock, 2016) and Holy Ground: An Alphabet of Prayer (Cascade, 2018), among other books, and wrote a column for Gather magazine for 10 years.

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