A Reflection by Rev. Louise Johnson, LEAD Director of Leadership Development
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
I have seen some spectacular churches in my days – beautiful buildings that speak of the power, promise, and presence of God.
Some bear the names of those who helped to build them. Some bear the marks of time and use – worn fabrics where old knees bend to pray or faded pews, used for support when life is weighty. Walls that don’t just speak, but sing the praise of the generations reverberating through time, angel choruses singing along. In one way or another, churches stand as reminders of the great cloud of witnesses – those gone before us, who made sure there was a place to come to, a faith to practice, a witness to see.
Though I know in my heart of hearts that a church is not a building, I miss the building.
There is something about the sacred space of a church that seems to contain God and me in a way that makes me feel less alone in this struggle called life.
I miss the building.
I miss the singing. I miss the nearby shoulders of struggling saints, longing for a clean start and something to feed our deepest hungers.
I miss the building.
Moses begins this Psalm, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” And it awakens me to the truth that, even though I love a good church, God has chosen not to dwell in places, but in time, in history, with us.
Who would know better than Moses? He was barely out of the womb before his first trip took him down a river to a new people, a new home, and a new life. Then he wandered 40 years in the wilderness and died there, forbidden from reaching anything at all like home, church, or place.
Moses didn’t have a “church home,” as we like to say. Or maybe it’s better said that his church home was not a place, but the experience of God’s portable presence. Wherever Moses went, God was there. And when he was without a home (which was most of his life), God was there, homeless along with him. So, who would know better than Moses what it means to experience God as our dwelling place?
God tents with the people in the wilderness, stays with them, becoming their home no matter where they went. But it still wasn’t quite close enough for God. In Jesus, God takes up residence in a human body, forever entangling human and divine DNA, so that there is nowhere we can go that God does not go, too. Nowhere.
I miss the building, but I am reminded today that God goes with us, dwelling in our DNA in ways I can barely fathom, serving as a dwelling place for me, for us, as God has for all generations.
So today, I honor my body as the place where God has chosen to dwell and all the other human bodies where that is also true. And I am grateful for the company in these lonely days apart from our buildings and gatherings.