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Categorized | From the Pulpit

A Place for God to live

Rev. Bill Johnson

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs ï 616.696.1140

Where is God now? 

King David wanted a house where God could live. If he got his way, Yahweh would no longer have to live in tabernacle-tents, but in a Temple. The Lord deserved the best. David wanted to build a house for God for all good intents, and in gratitude for what God had done for him. But God spoke to the prophet Nathan, “tell David thanks but no thanks.” God preferred a spiritual house. 

For Christians, the text in 2 Samuel 7:8-16 is often understood as an Advent season reading, because encased in it is the mystery of God’s coming to earth to live not in a building, but in human form. Yet with Easter and Passover still vibrating, these words of Nathan take on new light. 

Writing in the Journal for Preachers1 during the recent Holy Week, William Brown commented on the emptiness in our sanctuaries this Easter: “By abandoning our sacred gathering places, we are not abandoning the gospel. Far from it. We are testifying to what the white-robed messenger announced at the tomb, ‘He is not here.’” Brown continues, “Perhaps these are the words we should proudly display on our church marquee signs, ‘He is not here.’”

Church buildings have a significant meaning and function, make no mistake. We convene as faith communities because the Holy Spirit finds communion when pilgrims come together for worship. There is strength found in the sacraments. There is spiritual growth through reflection over the stories from the Old and New Testaments. And even in the time of fellowship over snacks, there is encouragement as bridges are built and barriers fall. It is good and right to have places for holy gathering. There is great grief when the community cannot meet in their familiar sacred space. 

But this year we can’t. We must not. If we want to save lives, we will refrain from gathering for a while. And that leads us back to the prophet Nathan. No church building, however well-intentioned and beautiful, fixes God at this place or that. The Spirit moves as it wills. God shows up when people bear witness when their lives say, “He is here,” And where is he? He is in the sacrifice of those who go to work every day right now; the medical teams, the grocery store employees, the truck drivers, the fast-food servers, the first responders, the generous outpouring of financial help, and in the prayers of those who in their devotion, make a holy space in their lives. 

1Journal for Preachers, Holy Week 2020, An Easter Meditation Amidst Pandemic, The Life-giving Emptiness of This Easter. William P. Brown, Decatur, Georgia.  

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