Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where Does God Live?

Grace Episcopal Church, Madison NJ
July 22, 2012

Year B – Proper 11: The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
(Ephesians 2:11-22)
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Where Does God Live?

            Well, we survived another Vacation Bible School!
            Actually, we more than survived. It was a great success and a lot of fun, thanks to the hard work of Mary Lea, our adult volunteers, the youth counselors and Dr. Anne.
            Maybe it’s because I missed VBS last year year, but the children this year seemed particularly happy, enthusiastic and cooperative. It was a great time.
            Our theme this year was the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. I had the privilege of playing Daniel while Mary McManus was a very convincing and often very funny prison guard.
            Although on one level our VBS was about Daniel, in reality all week we focused on something much more important than that wonderful old story.
            In Grace Hall, on the very first morning, Mary Lea asked the children a very important and profound question:
            “Where does God live?”
            Almost without exception, the children immediately pointed their index fingers up to the ceiling and the sky beyond.
            I’ve been thinking about that question all week. Where does God live in my life? Where and how do I meet God?
            Where does God live?
            Well, we have a good idea how the people of ancient Israel would have answered that question.
            They believed that in some mysterious way, God’s presence was in the Ark of the Covenant. In a sense, they believed that God lived in the Ark - which was a portable box or chest that, according to tradition, contained the two tablets of the Law that had been given by God to Moses.

            It was this Ark that, housed in a tent, had led the people of Israel on their long journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

            Where does God live? For the people of ancient Israel the answer was the Ark.

            If you’ve been here lately, you know that for the past few Sundays in church we’ve been hearing the story of the rise of David from lowly shepherd to God’s choice as Israel’s king.

            Last Sunday, we heard the story of David and all the people with him joyfully bringing the Ark to David’s capital city, to Jerusalem. It was, it seemed, the ultimate sign of God’s favor and support.

            Where does God live?

            Well, David would have answered, God lives in the Ark, which is now in my capital city. God lives in Jerusalem.

            Today we heard the next installment of the David story.

            God lives in the Ark, but David realizes that there’s something wrong with this picture.  He says to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I’m living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”

            To his credit, David realizes that he shouldn’t have a better living arrangement than God. So, with Nathan’s encouragement, David decides he’s going to build a house – a temple – for God.

            Not to be cynical, it’s possible that David’s motive was not quite so pure. After all, a magnificent temple housing the Ark would crown the glory and triumph of David’s rule.

            Well, God says no to a house – reminding Nathan and David and us – that God doesn’t need a fancy house or even a temple or even, for that matter, a beautiful church building.

            God turns the tables on David and says that God will give David a house, a dynasty. And we know that it will be David’s son and successor, Solomon, who builds the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, providing an opulent house for God – whether God wants it or not.
            Where does God live?

            We Christians believe and proclaim that in and through Jesus, God lives among us in a new and amazing way.

            In Jesus we know what God is really like.

            Where does God live? God lives in Jesus Christ.

            Two thousand years ago at least some people recognized God’s power and presence in Jesus. These desperately hungry, lost, broken people reached out to Jesus over and over again.

            Mark tells us the people reached out so much that Jesus and the disciples “had no leisure to eat.” To escape the crowds for a while they went by boat to a deserted place, but that didn’t work.
            And then later when they got out of the boat, people brought the sick to Jesus, desperate for his healing touch, desperate to be in the presence of God’s love and power.

            In many ways, two thousand years later, not much has changed.

            In Jesus, we know what God is really like.

            Where does God live? God lives in Jesus Christ.

            So, we still come flocking to Jesus. Just like those people two thousand years ago, we desperately hungry, lost, broken people reach out to him over and over again.  So, we come to this place week after week.

            It’s here that we meet Christ in Scripture and in our fellowship when we reach out our hands in peace to one another.

            It’s here that we meet Christ in the water of baptism, through which God makes an unbreakable bond with us.

            It’s here that we meet Christ in our prayers and our hymns.

            And, most of all, it’s here that we meet Christ in the bread and the wine, when in some mysterious way we take God into our bodies and into our hearts.

            But, as maybe David came to understand long ago, we know that God also lives beyond this ark, beyond this temple, beyond the walls of this sacred space.

            God lives where we reach out and offer service to one another, never asking for anything in return.

            God lives in the simple feeling of holding someone’s hand – that profound gesture and feeling, expressing love, friendship and comfort.

            God lives in the beauty and majesty of nature – in the pull of the tides, in the sparkling stars of the nighttime sky and even the steady purr of a cat on our lap or the bark of a dog that’s overjoyed to see us walk through the door.

            God lives all around us – if only we pay attention, if only we keep our eyes and ears open, if only we keep our hearts open.

            Where does God live? On that first day of Vacation Bible School, most of the children answered by pointing their index fingers to the sky.

            But, it turns out that our kids are much better theologians than that. Over the course of the week the kids put together a “God Sightings” board on which they listed different ways and places and people where they saw God.

            Where does God live? Here are some of the answers given by our children:

            “At the pool.”

            “At the mall.”

            “Building a sandcastle.”

            “On my hammock when I fell off but didn’t get hurt.”

            “In my heart.”

            “In my mommy and daddy.”

            “In my sister.”

            “When the doctor said I was OK.”

            “In the trees.”

            “In the Bible.”

            “In thunder.”

            “At night when I’m scared.”

            “In flowers.”

            “In the clouds.”

            “In a big hug from my aunt.”

            That’s where God lives in our kids’ lives. Where does God live in our lives?

            Where does God live?