by +

Beau Surratt

Lectionary 16b

July 21/22, 2018


Houses of God, Each of Us

I can’t tell you how many times I heard it growing up…

“All right, Beau, we’re getting ready to go to church. Now remember, the church is God’s house, so you have to be on your very best behavior.”

God’s house?

Needless to say I had questions:

Why does God need a house? What about all those other people who go to different churches? Does God live there too? Wow, God sure does have a lot of houses. He must be rich.

Now the house of God I grew up going to was really, really big. And I have to say, I thought God had a pretty sweet house. I remember the shiny black stone tile in the hallways outside the fellowship hall, and all those life-sized wooden statues – statues of Old Testament prophets and kings, King David among them.

Ah, David. The warrior king and dancing queen of the Hebrew Bible.

When we meet him in our passage from 2nd Samuel today he’s having a pretty relaxing, chill afternoon. Laid back in his sweet kingly house of cedar (which makes me think of living in a closet, but that’s another sermon for another day) with his friend, the prophet Nathan, talking theology and finally enjoying a bit of rest from his enemies.

And it seems David almost feels a little sorry for God. Here he is in his royal cedarwood house, but the Ark of the Covenant, the “outward and visible sign” of God’s presence with God’s people…God was moving about in tent and tabernacle, going around like a nomad, like a pilgrim, with no place to lay his head – no crib for his bed, if you will. Clearly if David is going to live in such a fancy house, God should have one too.

After first telling David to do all the he has in mind," Nathan later receives a communication from God that God has something different in mind.

The short version: “What made you think I wanted a house? When have I ever asked anyone for a house. Traveling about in tent and tabernacle among my people is just fine for me. Sure, someday one of your descendants is going to build a temple to my name, but here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to make of YOU a house: the house of David.

It seems that from the very beginning of time God has never been content to stay cooped up in the house all day. God wants to be out in the streets, raveling and sojourning among the people of God, the ones God so loves. God wants to dwell in the midst of the people, human beings, created in God’s very image. No, God doesn’t want to hang out at home, secluded in some cedar palace fit for a politician. God wants to dwell with US, in a wondrous, luminous, magnificent, yet often broken, messy, and confusing body, a body just like you and me, bodies just like Harith “Snoop” Augustus, bodies just like those of children separated from their adult caregivers at the border, bodies of women who for too long have been claimed as possessions by men too eager to have power over them (if you missed the story of Michal in last week’s reading from 2nd Samuel like I did, go back and take a good look). God comes to dwell in black and brown bodies, in trans bodies, in queer bodies, in straight bodies, in bodies of all shapes and sizes and colors.

God, the Wisdom from on High who created all things, the Word, was made flesh and dwelt among US. The Word was made mortal flesh in Jesus, born of the house of David. In Jesus we can know just how much God loves the world, just how much God will not dwell in some inaccessible, remote house. In Jesus we can know how God risked it all out of love for us in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, in Jesus’ battered, beaten, broken, and yet, and YES! resurrected body: that temple that was destroyed, yet rebuilt in three days.

What does this mean for us? We who receive Christ’s body and blood, we who become what we receive, the body and blood of Christ broken and poured out for the sake, for the LOVE of the world?

Here in this holy house where we worship and praise, where we come to rest and to pray, where we come away to receive nourishment, here in this holy house, as beautiful and wonderful as it is, as much as we desperately need what we find here, here in this holy house is NOT where we’re meant to stay.

No, like God, we are called to move about in tent and tabernacle, a nomadic, a pilgrim people called to go OUT to dwell with God’s people in the world, to feed, to teach, to heal.

Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk and writer, found his monastic vocation transformed in a moment when he understood God’s call to take the contemplation and prayer he experienced as a monk out into the world. Here's what he said in his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. … This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. …

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Shining like the sun, each of us. Still sparkling with baptismal water and fragrant oil. Houses of God, each of us. Claimed, called, and freed by God, members of God’s own household. Called, claimed, and freed to GO.