Toorak Uniting Church

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A house for God? - Where healing happens

2 Samuel 7: 1 – 10     Mark 6: 53 – 56
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
23 July 2006

2 Samuel 7:
1 King David was settled in his palace, and the Lord kept him safe from all his enemies.
2 Then the king said to the prophet Nathan, "Here I am living in a house built of cedar, but God's Covenant Box is kept in a tent!"
3 Nathan answered, "Do whatever you have in mind, because the Lord is with you."
4 But that night the Lord said to Nathan,
5 "Go and tell my servant David that I say to him, "You are not the one to build a temple for me to live in.
6 From the time I rescued the people of Israel from Egypt until now, I have never lived in a temple; I have traveled around living in a tent.
7 In all my traveling with the people of Israel I never asked any of the leaders F15 that I appointed why they had not built me a temple made of cedar.'
8 "So tell my servant David that I, the Lord Almighty, say to him, "I took you from looking after sheep in the fields and made you the ruler of my people Israel.
9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have defeated all your enemies as you advanced. I will make you as famous as the greatest leaders in the world.
10 I have chosen a place for my people Israel and have settled them there, where they will live without being oppressed any more. Ever since they entered this land, they have been attacked by violent people, but this will not happen again. I promise to keep you safe from all your enemies and to give you descendants.

Good News Bible - American Bible Society 1976

REFLECTION: "A house for God?"

David who has consolidated his kingdom and built himself a beautiful palace in the capital Jerusalem, who got the country organized and is for once not pestered by border conflicts with the nations around him, feels its time for his God to have somewhere appropriate to live. The arc is still in a tent and with a booming post war economy he feels that should change. Nathan the prophet thinks it’s a good idea too. Wouldn’t it be a suitable expression of David’s allegiance and dedication to God? And give the tribes a central place to worship? It would probably also provide Jerusalem with a nice money spinner in future years!

So Nathan goes into prayer, probably expecting to be affirmed in this endeavor. Nathan comes up with a surprising answer: God is not ready to live in a fixed spot yet. God prefers to stay moveable. David has to understand that God is not something you can put somewhere and keep it. David likes being in control and he has to learn that God is not something he can control. There have been instances before where David needed to be taught about that and here again God makes it clear that although David is very successful as a king in ruling unruly tribes and protecting forever disputed boundaries, God is not something that is part of the overall package of tools that will help him consolidate his power and political kudos. Only in God’s time, by God’s appointed, will God live in a house, and only because God decides that is a good thing to do at the time. A temple is not necessary for God to do what he promises. It is not a deal. And that is something David has to learn. God’s presence with him is only voluntarily, because he wants to be with his people and not because they built him a nice house. And God wants that too be very clear before he allows any house to be built in his honour. God chooses to be with people who do his bidding, who live their lives in the way he has asked them to. With love, bringing peace and wholeness to the world around them. Where that happens, there is God.

Mark 6:
53 They crossed the lake and came to land at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat.
54 As they left the boat, people recognized Jesus at once.
55 So they ran throughout the whole region; and wherever they heard he was, they brought to him the sick lying on their mats.
56 And everywhere Jesus went, to villages, towns, or farms, people would take their sick to the marketplaces and beg him to let the sick at least touch the edge of his cloak. And all who touched it were made well.

Good News Bible - American Bible Society 1976

REFLECTION: "Where healing happens"

In Jesus Christ God found a place to live among people. Jesus loved and healed and made whole, and showed people what life when it is lived God’s way. In him people felt God was present, reaching out to them, caring for them, loving them.

Jesus showed more than anybody that God’s presence is not confined to buildings, to holy places, to synagogues or temples. But that he is present wherever love and peace and justice are practiced by. That only there is where God is at home. God lives in people, God lives through people, people like Jesus, and people like you and me.

Most of us will have one or two special places where it is easier to feel close to God and relate to God than in others. Places that will lift our spirits and encourage and nurture us in our quest to live God’s way.

Special places where it is easier to get close to God. Those places will be different for everyone. It can be a church building like this one, or another special or beautiful building, it can be places in nature, beaches, or bush, flowers, or birds, it can be art, or music, it can be your own private room, your grand mother’s lap or the soft fur of the dog. It can be a place you know and are familiar with, it can be somewhere you haven’t been before. And sometimes, just sometimes an ordinary place you have been a zillion times before can become a special place unexpectedly. Anywhere where love and the yearning for peace and goodness surfaces in us and long to grow and expand into every aspect of our lives and into the world. Those places don’t mean anything if that felt closeness to God does not translate in his love, peace and goodness finding a place to live and grow in us, it is God’s desire not to be confined to a fixed place, it his desire, ultimately, to be and move among his people and for his grace to find its home in them. God would not let David build a house for him because David needed to understand that God could not be confined to one space and that it was more important to God to be present anywhere where his people lived their lives according to his will. In Christ God found a very special, movable dwelling place to live among his people and be present with them. For us there is this church as a special place to meet God and meet others who long to live their lives according to His will. We will have other, special places where we feel close to God and experience his presence. And we will know people in whom we see God live and his presence find a home. In the end that is the most important thing: That God finds a home in us, a movable, living and acting home that will make his presence felt in the world. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2006

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