Pondering the Psalms
Psalm 26:8 “LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.”
What do you look forward to most when things to return to “normal”? Being able to see loved ones without restriction? Going where you want when you want, mixing with friends or going on holiday? I know. Ditching your face covering! While we may want to have a ceremonial burning of face masks as a symbol of putting the past behind us, it looks very much that they and other restrictions will be around for most of the year and some people may never feel secure without wearing a face covering in public places again. The truth is that we don’t yet know what the long term effects of the pandemic on our behaviour patterns and our view of what is normal.
One of the things I look forward to is being able to come together as the body of Jesus, the church without having to socially distance; being able to embrace and shake the hand of someone without worry. When I think of it now it is the contact with others that enriches our worship and should feel most like heaven if you know what I mean?
When the Psalmist writes that he loves the house where God lives he means the tent which marked the presence of God in the midst of his people. The object that was the visible reminder that God dwelt with his people was a tent in the middle of the camp albeit a specially created ornate tent. First it was the tent in the desert but when Israel became a settled people the Temple was the building which marked the presence of God with his people. That said, access to God’s presence wasn’t a free for all, the High Priest could only go into the Holy of Holies where it was believe the glory of God dwelt, once a year and then only after an elaborate process that symbolised cleansing from sin. However, when the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom as Jesus died on the cross it was a powerful symbol not that God had broken out, but that everyone now could come in, had direct access to God through Jesus. His atonement was sufficient for all who believed and for all time.
It’s common still to think that when we come into the church, the building, we are coming into the presence of God, an understanding reinforced by calling the church building the “House of God”. By contrast our Presbyterian forefathers had it right in calling the church building the “Meeting House”, it was the place in which the church, the people of God met together for you see the presence of God no longer dwells in a specific building, but in a spiritual building, the church, the people whom he fills with his Holy Spirit. So, Peter writes to Christian believers “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house....” 1 Peter 2:4-5 Now, when we say “I love the house where you live” we shouldn’t mean 83-85 Castlereagh Road but the people whose hearts are joined in Christ. I love the church and I miss the church even though we are still the church and filled with the Spirit even when we are apart physically.