Over the last few years as I’ve continued on my spiritual journey the main theme for me is that God has gotten bigger. I continually see God in new places, people and situations. The sacred/secular divide continues to be broken down for me and I’m finding it so freeing to see God’s activity in things that don’t bear the “Christian” label. If you’re more of a theological conservative, you’re ass is twitching right now, and that pleases me.
This morning I was reading Psalm 84 (full text below) and I immediately was confronted with how I define “your dwelling place.” Notice the editor’s title of the chapter – The Joy of Worship in the Temple (emphasis mine). True, in the context of this, we’re hearing from an OT world view and in that context, God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Temple. That’s where you had to go to encounter God. Not so much in a post-temple-curtain world. God’s omnipresence shouldn’t be merely an answer to a catechism question but a reality in which we live. God’s dwelling place is everywhere. Yes, there is a great thrill in gathering with like-minded people and offering up a corporate expression of worship, but let’s not forget that this Psalm teaches worship as a lifestyle in a unique way. God lives everywhere, including in us. We can choose daily whether or not we are in the House of the Lord or not.
One of the main reasons this is so intriguing to me at this moment is that I am no longer involved as a leader in a church but in a corporate setting and I’m constantly evaluating what I’m doing in terms of call. I have always felt very passionate about the church and that has not changed. I know. I’ve checked. But I also know that I am in a season where I am definitely called to be a dwelling place for God outside the church. I attend when I’m not working and am committed to my local congregation.
While the editor may have wanted to force the reader into the box that says this is explicitly about temple worship, the text of the psalm speaks of seeing God in unlikely places. The Valley of Baca is a barren area outside of Jerusalem, but the writer calls on us to make it a place of springs and refreshing water. That can only happen when you’re willing to see God’s work in new ways. God dwells in us. That’s where God is. I am a doorkeeper in God’s house because I choose to see that God is working everywhere, despite the label, despite what I see. Teresa of Avila wrote, “God produces this delight with the creates peace and quite and sweetness in the very interior part of our selves… This water overflows through all the dwelling places of the soul.”
Today I don’t get to go to church because I have to work, but it will be a day in the courts of the lord all the same.
The Joy of Worship in the Temple
To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.a
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
[God] bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the LORD withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.