Where God Wants to Live

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.  

[NOTE: THIS SERMON WAS NOT ACTUALLY PREACHED DUE TO A SNOW DAY AND A MODIFIED SERVICE. THE SERMON IS OFFERED BECAUSE IT IS PART OF OUR SERIES ON PREACHING THE BIBLE IN NINETY DAYS]. ___________________________________________________________________________________

BEFORE THE SCRIPTURE READING
As we preach through the Bible in 90 days, I want to lift up for you the fact that we have been preaching on texts with key people from the Bible holding center stage.
They are people Jesus and NT writers would say are key people to know:
Abraham- the first one to receive the call – remembered for his faith
Moses- the leader of the Exodus, through the Wilderness- giver of the law
Joshua- (whose name is essentially the same name as Jesus when you translate it)-the one who took them into the promised land
Elijah- a great prophet who defended God… who would be known as the forerunner of the Messiah)

And now David. You cannot preach even 90 days through the Bible without a sermon on David… remembered as the greatest King Israel ever knew… who the Gospel writer Matthew takes great pains to let us know that Jesus is from the house of David… You have to preach on David.

Today’s text comes late in David’s life. Things have settled down in the kingdom. David has lived quite a life. He started as the least likely to be chosen as King when he was a boy shepherd, until he came up against Goliath. He became a great military leader and mind. He created Psalms/songs… for worship… and played music for Saul. He also had a son Absalom rebel against him-talk about your dysfunctional family. Then there was the famous affair… with Bathsheba. That was bad enough… but to complicate it further, he has her husband Uriah sent to the front line of the battle to make sure he is killed.
Talk about a cover up. But the prophet Nathan-one of the wisest decisions David ever made was to have a prophet or advisor who would be honest with him… Nathan didn’t let him get away with it. And David confesses and repents. A low moment in his life.

But today, it looks like life is looking good for David. There is peace and security in his kingdom. It is time to settle down. In fact, David has built himself a house… a very nice house with the best materials. His White House so to speak. That is where we enter the story today. Listen:

READ THE SCRIPTURE

You have to love David. David loves God enough to want to do something for God.
Especially now after all these years with a sense of God’s presence through thick and thin. Especially now… after he has built a huge, beautiful mansion for his own home… made of cedar! David looks at his house… then he looks at God’s house… well, you cannot call it a house really… it is a tent… an old tent… hundreds of years old… an old tent that has travelled thousands of miles… taken up and down Lord knows how many times… a tent housing the ark of the covenant… God has been living in sort of a mobile home for hundreds of years… David looks at his mansion fit for a King and looks at God’s digs-a mobile home… and David says to himself, "Something is wrong about this picture. This won’t do." I need to build a house for God.

Nathan thinks it is a good idea until God steps in. God says in effect, did anyone ask me what I wanted? I didn’t ask for a permanent home. I’ve never owned a home…I’ve always lived in tents and it suits me fine. Living in tents gave me flexibility and mobility… to move with my people. To be where they are, wherever they are. Nathan, tell David, he won’t be building a house for me. In fact, I’m the one doing some house building… I’ll be making you into a dynasty. Tell him, one day one day his son will build a house for me… but it won’t be David.

It is sort of a touching story but God sees something dangerous about David’s desire. Do you see it? Makes you wonder if God is suspicious of David’s motive… none of us have pure motives after all. Here is the danger… the warning for us in this story. As good as our intentions may be… be very careful that we understand the temptation we all have to project our human needs, intentions and desires on God.

Let us be very careful that we think God wants what we want… that our ways are God’s ways… It speaks to our human inclination to want to contain or co-op God for our purposes or projects.

I know this is my temptation, is it yours? I want this so God must want this.
I want to be wealthy and prosperous… I want a high paying job– God must want that for me too. I love the preachers who will tell me that God wants that. I want America to be strong and the leader of the world, so God must want that too. I want the church to grow and so God must want that too. I want the church to have nothing but the best, so God must too. What occurs to me sometimes is that in prayer, I seldom ask the question, "Is this what you want God? Is this your will or my will being done?" Hard questions.

Which I think is why God says, "Not so fast David" when the request his made.
God says, "I didn’t ask for a house of a temple. This is your need, not mine. If you want to know what I want… remember why I’ve lived in tents for all these years. What I want is to be with you. Everywhere. I don’t want to be contained in a building, a creed, or a system. I don’t want you defining me to the point of confining me to your definition of me. I want to be with you… and if that means living in a tent, I’ve always been fine with that.

What God wants David to understand is this: where God wants to live is not in a house but with us- wherever that is. If it helps to have a house, a temple, a sanctuary for God-a place where you have a special sense of God’s presence… where you gather as God’s people gathered around the tent for worship- well that is okay. But please don’t ever think that God is only there… you know better.

John, the gospel writer said one reason God came among us in Jesus is that God wanted to be with us and live among us. Walk our walk. When John says, at the opening of his gospel: "And the word became flesh and lived among us… " Do you know what it literally says? It says, "And the word became flesh and tabernacled among us… pitched a tent among us."

To me, that is a very powerful image… especially in these days following the earthquake in Haiti. Think about it. Here is a great disaster, like many disasters we have known. And what happens… is something beautiful to see. The best in people come out. Individuals donate money very generously out of compassion…Countries, many who are at odds politically, come together and they work to help those in desperation. Army units, teams of disaster relief experts, doctors, nurses-all sorts of people descend into Haiti… and what do they do? They pitch tents. In the middle of the need, of the disaster, they pitch a tent.

And I’m here to tell you, that is where I see God too. Pitching a tent in Haiti. Working among the people… to let them know they are not forgotten. Where does God want to live-right there… where his children need him… right here… when you need God.

I thought of where God is living after the earthquake when I was reading the journal of my friend Dr. Sylvia Campbell who lived in Haiti for a week to help out.
This is what she saw as she entered Haiti:
"Driving through the crumbling city, buildings and streets destroyed. People everywhere walking with faces that speak of a horror I cannot imagine. [They are] exhausted, nothing left. Yet on the corner a man sold sugarcane, and a few were beginning to walk around in the safety of daylight hours.We are at Kings Hospital – Jeanne, Dr. David Hooper and myself. A call came for need, and we are here. We have the operating room running now with that [supplies and equipment] donated by so many at home, and spent the day debriding, cleaning, amputating. The people are so fragile, emotions raw and open. Yet a quiet surreal acceptance is on the faces of those most hurt. Will the young man be able to live his life, as I know he will lose his leg? Will the preacher’s wife survive? The baby with possible meningitis live? A Cheshire cat moon shines down [tonight], smiling its golden smile on this city. Eerie darkness covers the town, hiding all the pain and suffering under its dark blanket. Looking down, who would know what has happened this week? Who could see the horror wrapped in this night?Yet even with this horror there is so much kindness, so much love and compassion. Not wanting to be heroes, people world-round have come, just trying to help."

I think about Sylvia, her friends and many, many others who chose to tabernacle among God’s children… living in tents among those in greatest need. And it helps me understand why so many people who work on a Habitat home… or go on ASP trips, or serve in a soup kitchen or go to Helen Wright Center or volunteer at WIHN or KOALA, or go to New Orleans or Pala…

It helps me know what we do what we do… we want to go where God is going… to be where God is living…where God has always lived… out in the real world of pain and hurt and grieving… where God can bring hope and peace and life to those who are losing hope and finding life unbearable.

But those who are reading the Bible in 90 days already know this don’t you?
Haven’t you learned that our God is the God who heard the cries of his children in Egypt… and decided to call Moses to lead the slaves out? Isn’t our God the God who traveled alongside his children for 40 long years in the wilderness… God didn’t ask them to build him a nice house… just a tent would do… a place where God could live with his people wherever his people are living. Do you see… that’s what God wants for us? For you and me? Wherever you are, that is where God wants to be? That’s why God’s home doesn’t look like cedar… it looks like Jesus-the one in whom God chose to dwell.

Which leads me to one final thought or question. What or who is the church? In the eyes of Paul, we are not a building… we didn’t even have buildings yet… we are more than that… we are the Body of Christ… we are the people in whom God chooses to dwell… in God’s people.

We tend to remember this after church disasters. Ever notice that. After a church fire… or a tornado… or hurricane… on the next Sunday… people gather at that spot where there is no building… but they gather for worship. And someone almost always says something like, "You know, the building is gone but the church is still here." And we might add, God is still here because God never lived in that building. God lived among the people. We know that!

We saw that the first Sunday after the earthquake hit Haiti. There was the story of worship at St. Joseph’s Home…Someone who was there wrote:The most amazing worship service ever took place at Wings of Hope on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. Gathered in the guest dining room, no bigger than a one-stall garage, about 80 people gathered to praise God for the blessings bestowed on us and to ask for continued protection for our family and our country. It was humbling to be a part of…from the joyous singing, to the saltines and coffee cup full of wine for communion, to the hugs of friends and family.

I don’t know about you… but I kind of wish I could have been there for that worship service… because I know, I know God was there to be sure. Right there in his tent!

Amen.

 


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