Where is the House of God?

posted Sep 24, 2021, 11:11 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

Blessings of Pentecost joy be with you.

This week we returned to our Adult Education gatherings and we are reading/studying An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (Note: All are welcome to join this study in person or via Zoom). This is my third reading of her book and each time I do so I am drawn to her initial questions,  . . . how had I forgotten that the whole world is the House of God? Who had persuaded me that God preferred four walls and a roof to wide-open spaces? (2 Samuel 7.5-6: “Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle”). Since my first encounter with this observation I have made it a practice to look for signs of God’s presence in the most ordinary places and activities. Today I saw God in Bed, Bath, and Beyond in a person named Lucille. She is a clerk there and is always genuinely friendly, helpful, and ends each interaction with customers with a heartfelt, “God bless you.” In a world where divisiveness is the norm, she was a breath of fresh air for my day.

One would think that after reading a book three times, however, no new insights would pop from the pages anymore. But oh, how wrong that is. For whenever we read a book we are filtering it through the lens of our experiences in the place we find ourselves at that reading. Assuredly, after eighteen months of living in a pandemic I can say my life’s lens has certainly changed. And so, I caught my breath when I read, As important as it is to mark the places where we meet God, I worry about what happens when we build a house for God . . . Do we build God a house so that we can choose when to go see God? Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours?

I lingered over the page for quite a while thinking back to when our buildings were closed down but we as a church still gathered remotely. At that time, our hearts ached to be physically together in our sanctuary, but we still knew we were together. We knew that God’s presence was with us, no matter how and where we gathered. Now that we can worship in person I hope we have realized that God is not held within four walls; that 121 Kings Highway is not a place we go to when we “choose” to see God, for the House of God is throughout all of creation and the Spirit chooses always to be hovering ever present among us. No, we come to our sanctuary to worship God, and to remind ourselves who we are — children of God — and whose we are — Christ’s own. Our church building is a house of God, not the House of God.

Let us gather at 10:30 AM in person or on FaceBook live (Page: Middletown Reformed Church) this Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing “You Are the Seed” for our anthem. I will be preaching from Mark 9.33-50 and my sermon title is Salty Christians. In addition, we have resumed congregational singing and since the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is present in our state, and Monmouth County is a high transmission zone for the variant, everyone must wear a mask for worship and indoor church events. Thank you for your cooperation in loving yourself, your neighbor, and keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Come to MRC this Sunday, a house of God for all people, so that when you leave and go out into the world you may be inspired to look for and find the wonder and joy that is the beautiful House of God.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish