Saturday, July 18, 2009

19 July 2009 Sermon - God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Proper 11, 7 Pentecost
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
2 Samuel 7:1-14; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

“the Lord declares to you that the Lord will build you a house.” 2 Sam 7:11
“It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness of the skies” Ps 89:37
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31
“all ate and were filled” Mark 6:42
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” Eph 2:19

God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

In today’s Old Testament reading from Samuel, David has a new home, a palace. He expresses concern that the Ark of the Covenant is “residing” in a tent outside. Last week we heard about David dancing as this Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, and now, it seems David wants to provide a home for God. To me, David’s desire seems quite understandable. After 40 years in the desert with Moses and Aaron, and several generations of living in Israel, isn’t it time that we build a house for God, a Temple where people might see the greatness of God. It doesn’t seem to befit our God to live in a tent, after all, while the king lives in a palace. It would be like putting God at the kids table at Thanksgiving, or making him sleep on the sofa bed with the bar that sticks into your back. God needs a proper place, after all. So David asks his court prophet, Nathan what can be done about this.

David is only partially right. It is right to desire to worship God, to recognize God, and to honor God. However, the idea that God “needs a proper place,” that God needs David to provide for God is quite a laugh. What does God need? Does God need David (or us) to provide for God?

God speaks through Nathan to tell David that God is not concerned about staying in a tent (or having the Ark of the Covenant stay in a tent), God wandered around with Moses for 40 years, and has not needed a house of cedar in which to reside. God says to David, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people.”

God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

Not only does God not need a house in which to live, God will be providing a house for David. The house that God will provide is a house of lineage, a Royal House of a family of descendents who will rule after David is long gone. God has provided for the people Israel, and will continue to provide for them, long after David is gone, long after the castle and the temple crumble. “His line shall stand fast for ever, like the moon, the abiding witness in the sky.” This promise of lineage is a promise of God’s faithfulness, of God’s everpresent (or prevenient) Grace.

David was one who had great imagination, and had great faith, although also had great failings. We remember that his imagination and faith led him to have the audacious courage to take on Goliath. However, like our imagination, his imagination was nothing next to God’s. He imagined God might need or desire a house in which to live, but God turned this on its head and provided a house of living descendents and promised to abide with them always.

Isn’t it true for us as well, from time to time, we think we have a handle on God, that we have experienced God, we know God, and we seem to know the extent of God and God’s grace in our lives. For me, it is these times that God most often breaks in and blasts apart the house in which I have tried to contain God. God’s grace abounds. God’s goodness is greater than our grasping. David tried to build a house for God, but God turned around and created an eternal house of lineage for David. God has provided for us, and will continue to provide for us, providing the “peace which passes our understanding” in every dwelling and house.

God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

Jesus taught his disciples to live out the message that God will provide. He sent out his disciples with nearly nothing. We heard in today’s gospel reading that they took Jesus’ message to heart. They were out teaching and healing. They returned to Jesus and told him what they had done. They had been busy, as we are. They had been caring for people, had been running from place to place with no rest at all, “they had no leisure even to eat.” If you’ve ever cared for children, or been a caregiver for anyone in need, you know how easy it is to forget even to eat. So Jesus calls them to a deserted place to rest and eat – and then provides for the thousands who flock to them.

God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that the place where Jesus calls us is a place apart, and it is a place where we are brought together. In Christ, all of us who have been far off have been brought near. One can hear echoes of the Prodigal Son story here, one who has been far off is welcomed home with tears of Joy. Christ has broken down the dividing walls. The walls of class, of race, of world view, of political persuasion, of liturgical sensibility, all these walls that we use to separate are broken. Christ has created a new humanity where we all might join together in this new of home and rest. As Paul proclaims in the letter to the Ephesians, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” While God refused to be contained by David’s idea of a house, God has provided a household where we all are welcomed. We are offered rest, and we are offered a home where we are welcomed in even when we don’t deserve it. We are embraced with open arms. Here, in the household of God, we are no longer strangers, we pass the peace one to another – young, old, rich, poor, happy, sad, no matter what we bring here – and here (altar); we are no longer strangers and aliens, but in Christ we are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

God provides us a home and a rest where we are no longer strangers but built together as a home where God abides.

This household is foreshadowed by God’s insistence that David rest in the promise that God would provide a house of lineage, a house of blessing, a house of ever present (prevenient Grace). Through Christ, God has renewed our humanity. Through Christ, even in our humanity, our imperfections, our somewhat tired, grumpy and limited selves are joined together in unity. “You also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God,” and for one another.

“the Lord declares to you that the Lord will build you a house.” 2 Sam 7:11
“It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness of the skies” Ps 89:37
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31
“all ate and were filled” Mark 6:42
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” Eph 2:19

God provides a house where we reside and God abides.

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