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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Samuel 7:1–13 

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (NRSV)

As Reformed Christians, we say that “ground” or “space” is made holy only when the people of God gather for worship. Sanctuaries aren’t holy on their own, we claim. It takes the gathering of God’s people to sanctify—or make holy—space or ground. Despite our best efforts, stone and wood, gold and glass alone can’t make a church building holy. To put it plainly, it’s only God’s house when God shows up—and God only shows up when we show up together.

David really wants to build a temple for God. He wants to give God a dwelling place that is grand and fitting. But God stops David in his tracks: “Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.” God reminds David that God is bigger than any one place and cannot be contained by people. God has remained with the people wherever they sojourned. In fact, God tells David that the people of God—you and me—serve as the home of God.

That’s a pretty radical understanding of creating a sanctuary or dwelling place for God. God is with us when we gather—wherever we gather. At the family dinner table after a long day: God dwells. At the bedside of the sick and dying: God dwells. Marching on Daley Plaza with the faithful for those without food, without homes, or without safety: God dwells. Wherever the faithful gather, God’s presence abides. And that’s a liberating concept. We don’t need the four walls of the church to bid the presence of God (though sometimes that helps). We simply need willing and open hearts. God does the rest.

O God, create in me a willing and open heart,
that I might be your dwelling place.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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