July 20, 2009

Building a House for God

            The lesson from the Hebrew Bible in this seventh week after Pentecost is the story of the three-way conversation between Nathan the prophet, King David, and the Lord of hosts. What is under consideration is whether God really desires a permanent dwelling.  The king had built a stable enough coalition that he now lives in a house of cedar, “but the ark of God stays in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2). God had overshadowed David’s life, bringing the shepherd boy from the pasture to a place of honor and responsibility as King of Israel.

            Clearly, the divine graceful presence is not dependent upon the kind of dwelling provided by God’s people, and the Lord demurs when David desires to build a temple. God will build a “house,” i.e., a dynasty for David’s progeny, and will allow David’s son Solomon to construct a “house for my name” (v.13) in the future. There are key theological ideas in this passage which will influence how future generations understand the promised messiah.

            This passage captured my attention as we are in the process of finalizing planning and preparing for groundbreaking for a new chapel on Central’s campus. Surely it will not be a structure that “houses God,” but it will be built for the glory of God and useful to God’s purposes. I trust it will also be a place where we recognize God’s presence as God offers the divine self to us in the act of worship; our worship is always response to God’s prior self-giving. I quote Don Saliers, influential teacher of worship: “The ‘divine service’ (Gottesdienst) is precisely the event in which God’s speaking and human answering correspond.”

            I share some of the wonder of the one hearing the prophetic oracle in 2 Samuel. God’s generosity surpasses human industry in providing a house; God’s provision is always seen in construction projects of such magnitude. In Central’s case, generous members of the Baugh family have made this new dwelling possible, and they know that they are God’s graceful instrument in this. I give thanks for them!

I pray that students, faculty, staff, and guests will always be attentive to God’s presence in our worship and that gifts for ministry will be kindled through this divine-human encounter. I pray that Journey Community Church, the new church plant in our midst, will find this a hospitable place to nurture a fledgling congregation. I pray that God will be pleased to be in our midst, inhabiting the praise of God’s people.

Molly T. Marshall

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