The House of God

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“O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides” (Psalm 26:8 NRS).



(Image courtesy of bible-architecture.info)

It’s quite possible that the author of Psalm 26 saw the Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God.  They stood before its mighty gates, walked through the expansive courtyards, turned over their sacrifice to ornately dressed priests, and witnessed the smoke rising from the altars.  I have often wished that I could have seen that sight with my own eyes.  Experience the presence of God in that biblical way.  It feels like we have lost a sense of that glory, the majesty of God’s tangible presence, in our modern incarnations of the House of God, our churches.  Rarely do I notice that people behave any differently when they enter the sanctuary than they did when they were outside.  We are so comfortable and the setting so normative that we fail to be moved.  Just because the landscape is speckled with churches of all shapes, sizes, and denominations does not mean that they do not house God in a literal way.  It does not mean that God is not there simultaneously while in countless other Houses of God.

When you drive around, do you notice the state of the churches you pass?  How about the church you attend?  Do you look at the condition of a building and wonder whether they care about God based upon its upkeep?  That can seem like a vain question, but the splendor of the Temple in Jerusalem was not just mentioned repeatedly in the accounts of its construction in 1 Kings, but in historical accounts.  It made an impression on people other than those who worshiped there.  The glory of the physical building reflected the glory of God.  “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor” (Psalm 29:2).  People knew they were in a sacred and holy space when they entered the Temple complex because it overwhelmed their senses with its appearance.  It was a visual reminder that they had entered into the presence of God.  Do we need that reminder?

Yes, we do.  When people are willing to sit in the pews and maliciously gossip, then we have forgotten that we are in the presence of God.  When people are willing to spend their time in worship texting, chatting, and passing time in any number of ways, then we have forgotten that we are in the presence of God.  When people lack the respect to come at the correct time and not interrupt worship with their tardiness, then we have forgotten that we are in the presence of God.  When people don’t think twice about not coming to church, then we have forgotten that we are in the presence of God.  Modern Christians seem all too able to forget what should be unforgettable.  We fail to internalize that the church is a House of God all the time.  God remains there even when there is no worship taking place.  When I enter the sanctuary on Tuesday morning and kneel at the altar rail to pray, God is there and has been.  After church on Sunday, we go home, but God remains.  It is, as Psalm 26 says, the place where God’s glory abides.  It’s time we stopped treating God’s house like it is anything other than a sacred space and holy place.  If we can’t even respect the sanctity of our church, our House of God, then why should we ever expect that Christians will respect something less concrete, less physically tangible like dignity, justice, and the presence of God in others?

Prayer:
O Lord,
You made your home among the nations.
You dwell in our midst.
We do not have to make a pilgrimage to see you.
You are in the church on the corner, the church down the street.
What a blessing to have you so close!
How often have we neglected you and your house, O God?
Why do we fail to acknowledge the glory of your presence?
Open our eyes to the reality of your being with us.
May we have awareness of entering into your holy presence,
When we enter into your Holy House.
Perhaps then when we leave,
We will be ever more happy to return again soon.
All honor and glory to you.
Amen.

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