Thursday, November 12, 2009

I will dwell in the house of the Lord, Psalm 23

Psalm 23 Dominus regit me

The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I am continually fascinated by the way that the Bible sets out the image of the "House of the Lord."  In psalm 23, most of us probably imagine the "house of the Lord" as the place of eternal rest, our heavenly home.  This seems quite likely, for God does reside "there" of course.  However, in addition, it seems that this term also points to "the house of the Lord" here in our present reality, the "house of the Lord" would not be something that exists solely in a time and place that begins for each of us at our death.  The residence of God, the house of the Lord would be understood by the Hebrews to be the Temple, the place where such care was given to construct a large complex of buildings and courtyards to give protection to the Holy of Holies, where God was known to be.  When the Temple was destroyed in 70 c.e., new understandings arose and new practices arose about God and God's presence. Of course, the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament also point to the reality that God is all around us, and is interacting with the history of the world in a real and tangible way.  God is by no means contained by any complex of buildings, be they in Jerusalem, Rome, or Canterbury.

We have this image of the house of the Lord, which gives us hope and strength when we pray Psalm 23, as a place of eternal rest.  We also realize that the house of the Lord must include the Temple where the Hebrews offered sacrifice and praise.  And we also know that God is not to be located in any one place, but is actively engaged with creation and history.  There are other ways of understanding the term house, such as the house and lineage of David - an understanding of house as family and lineage. And then, of course, there is the Incarnation of the Christ as human, God dwelling with us as fully human and fully divine.

These ideas are still swirling around quite a bit for me, but I believe that the House of the Lord has multiple meanings which exist at the same time.  From Psalm 23 we learn that:

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever

Which is more vividly translated, "your goodness and mercy will stick to me / tail me / stalk me all the days of my life....and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  We know that God has created a home for us in the hereafter, and we know that God is sticking with us and guiding us to that place where we will (even now?) dwell forever.

I pray that we all experience some sense of God's householding in our lives today and that we know he is tailing us and stalking us with his goodness and kindness.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

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