Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quest for the House of God

Jesus will always be the one I worship, my prophet of choice, Saviour, friend, teacher and guide. I would never pass over his living essence for a chunky piece of dead stone, no matter how peaceful and loving the idol-relic rhetoric comes across. It's just not a temptation for me, although I can see how it would be for some, depending on what they've gone through in the christian culture, and whether they feel completely deserted by God in their circumstances.

The spirit of Jesus is like the wind, or sometimes a gentle breeze, according to the need, who wafts in breathing new life with his presence. He's made himself real to me in so many ways throughout my lifetime, that there's no question of leaving him.

Leaving, or not engaging in, christian culture is a different story for me these days. Although I haven't entirely left its sphere, I have been content now to remain on the outer rim of it.

However, I have been wondering what to do about my affinity for the verses of Psalm 27:4-6 that say:

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high on a rock...at his tabernacle I will sing and make music to the Lord."

Is that only for people who want to spend time in church culture and be caught up in its orbit? I used to sing these words with more of the church in mind - serving there - my music supposedly being there. But time and circumstance has changed that.

When you feel the Lord has lifted you out of a certain sphere and placed you in another one that isn't by definition the church or its culture, where then is the house of God? I feel no affinity for serving in church, not because of bitterness and unforgiveness (some people automatically think that's the problem), but because I see now that the Lord has lifted me out. But I still feel a kinship for those verses that hold meaning for me even if I'm not sure of the meaning. Maybe the Lord has wanted the meaning redefined all along.

So I've been on a quest to find out what the house of God means to me now.
I know what it no longer can be for me. Especially when the Pastor at the Good Church periodically sounds too much like our former pastor at the Church of Questionable Conduct - that if you aren't doing your part (he calls it doing chores) at your local church you must be in rebellion to God. Like that's really motivating, thanks. I can't wait to jump in now and let you suck my energy bone dry so I have no time left to do my art which is the calling of my life. At the time of this blogpost it's not logistically going to work if I try to do both (just like it wasn't early on when I started this blog). And I don't sense the Lord asking me to lay down my art to walk back into the church to help with that particular family's chores. I've done that already for far too long and have suffered for it. If I do that now, how do I know THAT is not rebellion to what God wants me to do? Besides, if you go by the rebellion-to-God dogma, where is the longsuffering and patient love of God in that?

Jesus said that if two of his followers gather in his name, he is there in the midst. This may be one of the keys to the door of God's house. Where two or more of us encourage each other in faith and hope, pray for each other and with each other, that would be fulfilling the 2 most important commandments according to Jesus when he uttered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

Another thought that has come to mind in the reading Psalm 27 passage again, when I see "at his tabernacle I will sing and make music to the Lord." "At" makes me think of standing next to something, in this case it could be an altar. Wherever you build an altar for the Lord to worship him, wouldn't that be the place of his dwelling and therefore his house? Or how about under the shadow of His wing? When I sing to the Lord even by myself, I feel I've passed through a threshold, walked into a place of worship and communion. When I talk with the Lord wherever I am, I share with him the secrets of my soul, my needs and desires. In so doing, I hand my burden to him in faith that he's taken it since he's promised to shoulder it much better than I ever could. That's the kind of exchange pastors always tell you needs to happen when you go to church. It can happen anywhere though, not just in church services.

Perhaps the spirit of the Lord doesn't WANT to be walled up in a building where communal chores are necessary to keep its household running. Maybe he really IS like the wind that wants to blow where a place of desire and need exist, where it can do most good.

Not to say that can't happen in church too, because I know that's very valid for those who seek refuge in the churches. It was for me at one time. Still can be sometimes. The Lord is never one to turn anyone away, so my guess is he's in both types of houses. For those who like the idea of being part of a family where, sort of like children, they do their chores while the pastor-father oversees (and yes, does his chores too), that's great for them. But to assume we all need to be there when some of us have spread our wings and flown the nest, isn't that a bit presumptuous? That's like telling my adult children what they are doing out in the world beyond our home isn't as valid as coming back into the fold and helping us keep our household running.

My hope is that the house of God dwells within us, wherever we may be, as we seek his face and he touches our lives. Like that beautiful painting of the finger of God touching the finger of man, both reaching to one another in need and desire, the Spirit of God gives sustenance and breath to help us keep on living, enabling us to follow the path of destiny he's given us without fear and distraction. Walking in harmony and communion with him is his house because he is our father, teacher, saviour and friend. That seems right to me, but since this is a quest, I'm open to adjusting anything out of harmony with the scriptures.