Following in the Footsteps of David

RCL Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Let us pray: Illumine for us these texts, O Lord, that the Light you bring, the words I speak and the Spirit you send inform us of your Word and Will. Amen.

“I will make you a house,” declares the Lord; not David will make a house for the Lord. Disappointing news for this most favored ruler of Israel, for sure. But what does that really mean, the Lord will build David a house?

Centuries of Biblical interpretation among Christian scholars tell us that this Hebrew Scripture foreshadows two things; namely that David’s successor will build a house for God, which happens, but also that Jesus will be the ultimate successor from David’s which will establish his line in perpetuity.

David’s son Solomon, in all his glory and dishonor, was not the fulfillment of this prophesy, even though he did in fact, build a house for the Lord – the Jerusalem Temple. The physical dynasty of King David did, eventually lose the throne of Israel and later Judah; and all Israel was sent into exile. The House of David, and the House of the Lord, both perished. To a people whose very epicenter of life’s meaning lay in these dual houses; this loss was keenly felt.

What is it about a house that is so important? One Christian commentator writes,

“Home helps us feel safe and secure, but the God of creation cannot be contained or domesticated. Our churches are houses of worship, but God does not reside even inside the grandest cathedral. David’s desire to build a house for God corresponds to our desire to tame the transcendent with words and doctrines and platitudes.”[1]

In other words, it is our very human desire for physical surety, for protection, that goads us to want to box up God, define and conscript theological understandings to doctrines, and fake ourselves into thinking we thus keep all Divinity for ourselves. What we are easily tempted to do, like Israel did, is see God and the protection of the familiar as “signs of permanence in a world of change.”[2] But such is not to be. Especially in our contemporary world where people of many faiths interact in life and business, community and yes, even spiritual practice. God has many children, and we are but only a fraction of all that our Creator cherishes.

“Life with God is more a sojourn than a settlement. A sojourn makes sense in this postmodern moment, as it did in exodus and exile. Cedar houses and stone temples, churches and cathedrals, tend to tie us to tradition, engendering nostalgia and tightening our grip on the status quo. In a time when nothing seems certain or predictable, we do well to abide in the steadfast love of God, hesed (v. 15). Our God is far from homeless; our God is our home.”[3]

It is worth noting the metaphorical parallel between a Tabernacle – the mobile tent for God’s dwelling among the Israelites from the days of wandering up through the reign of King David – and our own physical frames, which are also temporary dwelling places for our very own God-given breath of life. The promise to David, then, is spoken also to us, for, “Ultimately, God promises to make a home in our midst, with us, within us”[4] (emphasis added). This is very good news indeed; for although “…Shekhinah is a postbiblical idea, it is rooted in the biblical tabernacle. Spirit, according to [Michael E.] Lodahl, is ‘God’s own personal presence and activity in the world.’”[5] It is my dearest hope that, as we enter into a new Age of the Spirit, as Phyllis Tickle and others have called it,[6] we can begin to view contemporary spiritual searching with a new set of eyes.

That is not to say, abandon all that we have been given from before; it is merely to say that perhaps we have been missing some parts of our heritage which have found themselves rising up in unexpected places. Did you know, for example, that from the ancient Celtic tradition, long silenced by the Roman perspective, God is understood as being closer to us than our very breath? That to understand God through Celtic eyes is to understand “God as the Being on which all being rests, the Light within all light, the Life at the heart of all that has life.”[7]? The unexpected uprising of this perspective for our postmodern times is directly related to the phrase “spiritual but not religious.” What some of these seekers identify with is the same nature mysticism of the ancient Celtic Christians who understood God to be imbued in all things. They come to realize there IS Spirit, and they have a spirit, and they think, “How do I touch it? How do I relate? I don’t want organized religion, I just want to have a relationship with this otherworldly spiritual understanding of life imbued with life.

Presbyterian pastor and modern mystic George MacLeod once said, “We have been given union with God whether we like it or not…our flesh is his flesh, and we can’t jump out of our skins.”[8]

Speaking of modern mystics, to “go mystical,” as MacLeod would call it, is not “to turn away from the affairs of the world” but “to go more deeply into life, to find God at the heart of life, deeper than any wrong, and to liberate God’s goodness within us and in our relationships, both individually and collectively.”[9] If that’s not “spiritual but not religious,” than what is?

Let’s return for a moment to the concept of home; bringing David with us.

“What David learns is what many of us need to learn as we walk our spiritual journey: our plan for home and God’s plan are often quite different. To put it rather bluntly, it is not about us. David wants to do something for God, to demonstrate to God just how much gratitude he has for what has been done. All well and good, but that is not what is important. God seeks bigger, better things, so that David’s house will become a home encompassing all of humanity. God does not desire a house, but a heart. God does not want a dwelling, but David’s obedience. When the heart and actions are aligned, then they find their fit, and one is, finally, at home.

As a result of David’s obedience, God kept the promise and established David’s house forever, but not in the way David or the people of Israel expected. At a time when it seemed God would not keep the promise, especially in the face of the Roman conquerors, the God who had dwelt among the chosen people in a tent “pitched his tent” in a most unlikely way. God became one of us. Thus John would write, “The Word became flesh and lived [Gk. literally “pitched a tent”] among us” (John 1:14). This is why the early church saw the foreshadowing of the coming Christ in this prophetic word of Nathan. The coming One will bring that reality of home … of comfort, for which people long.”[10]

We who here today live and move and have our being beyond the Coming One foretold; beyond the reality of Christ Jesus, Rabbi to his people and Teacher to us all. We who are here today live in a time of rich cross pollination of the world’s religions and spiritualities. It isn’t easy, is it? Finding one truth demanding one perspective yet encountering multiple truths and multiple perspectives. What we can hope for in the end is, as David did, follow as best we can that which we understand comes of and from God as we move forward into our future chapters of life.

To help me on my understanding, I have begun to reclaim from the Celtic perspective some of the mystical-meets-the-practical; and I offer some of my reading and insights to you with this prayer excerpt of George MacLeod’s:

“Almighty God…Sun behind all suns, Soul behind all souls,…show to us in everything we touch and in everyone we meet the continued assurance of thy presence round us, lest ever we should think thee absent. In all created things thou art there. In every friend we have the sunshine of thy presence is shown forth. In every enemy that seems to cross our path, thou art there within the cloud to challenge us to love. Show to us the glory in the grey. Awake for us thy presence in the very storm till all our joys are seen as thee and all our trivial tasks emerge as priestly sacraments in the universal temple of thy love.”[11]

And so it comes to this: As you go about your daily living, turn your heart, your eyes, your very being into a tuning fork for God’s eyes, God’s heart, God’s hands and feet in the world.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Question for Reflection

God promised to build King David into a “house.” Paul told the Ephesians that in Christ they would be built into “a dwelling place for God.” How is the Holy Spirit living in you?

Household Prayer: Morning

Holy One who is Holy Three, I praise you as I rise from my bed. As the morning dew glistens and songbirds greet the day, let my prayers go up to you. Awaken my body to the wonder of life and fill my spirit with the joy of your presence. I seek your guidance as I prepare for activity; instruct me on what is necessary and what is fruitless so that I wisely use the gifts you give me. Let me see all people as your beloved children, some needing care, some needing forgiveness, all deserving dignity, respect, and hospitality. If it is your will, protect me from harm. In all events, grant me the comfort of your presence so that I can faithfully obey your will. Spare others suffering because of my sinfulness. Let me bear witness to your goodness in my words, my actions, and my silences so that you can use me to draw others into your presence. Bring us together into the time when Christ Jesus comes and all sorrows are wiped away. Then all will be one and joined to you in love by the grace of our same Lord Jesus Christ, who, together with you and the Holy Spirit, is worshiped and glorified now and forever. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Majesty of holiness, thank you for another day lived in your grace. Thank you for all whom I met who showed me your kindness. Help me to repent of my sins before I go to my bed this night. Let me receive the blessing of forgiveness and enter a period of rest with the burdens of the day lifted from me, and the comfort of your peace as a pillow for my head. If it is your will, speak to me as I sleep, and let me remember your words as I rise to a new day, giving you thanks and praise, one God in three persons forever. Amen.

[1] Rebecca Button Prichard, “Theological Perspective, 2 Samuel 7:1-14a” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Michael E. Lodahl, Shekhinah/Spirit: Divine Presence in Jewish and Christian Religion (New York: Paulist Press, 1992, 41) as quoted by Rebecca Button Prichard, “Theological Perspective, 2 Samuel 7:1-14a” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0).

[6] Phyllis Tickle and Jon M. Sweeney, The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church, 1st edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014).

[7] J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).

[8] Ronald Ferguson (ed.), Daily Readings with George MacLeod: (Fount, 1991) as quoted in J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).

[9] J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).

[10] Steven A. Peay, “Pastoral Perspective, 2 Samuel 7:1-14a” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[11] George F. MacLeod (ed. Ronald Ferguson), The Whole Earth Shall Cry Glory (Wild Goose Publications, 1945) as quoted in J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).


About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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