Place and space - Dwelling Spaces

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Place and space

Psalm 84 opens with the words 'How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord', the NET Bible translates this as 'How lovely is the place where you live, O Lord who reigns over all!'. Of course the Psalmist is referring to being in the Temple in Jerusalem with God, this was the special place where heaven and earth met in the Holy of Holies.

Since you could only go into the Holy of Holies once a year and then only if you were High Priest, there were not many people who were dwelling with God.  The Psalmist was desperate to even just be in the courts of the Temple and satisfied that God was near. The arrival of Jesus into the world changed the place where God dwelled.  Jesus is God, and so wherever He was there was a meeting of heaven and earth and an opening of the divine.  We often call this the Kingdom of God, and where Jesus was, there the Kingdom started to become a reality on earth. 

This is what makes being a Christian so amazing because when Jesus was killed by us, that was not the end, He broke through death into new life and assures us that by having faith that He is God we can both still be sure of His presence with us always (Matt 28:20) and  that He has opened a connection between heaven and earth (Heb 8-10), a way for us to be in the presence of God.  This is not just a hope for the future, it is a hope for now, that as Christians we can expect the Kingdom of God to be manifest where we are because God is with us there. 

So anyway, all this got me thinking about place and space....

At the moment in the UK, the two areas where people increasingly have a Christian engagement are in cathedrals (attendance up 30% in the last 10 years according to Church of England stats) and in churches with a Pentecostal emphasis (see Christian research stats), i.e. those churches that emphasise direct personal experience of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.  I think this should be of no surprise to us.  We live in a culture that is looking for meaning in life, and essentially because God created everything this means that searching for meaning is searching for God. Searching for where He dwells. 

I think this is where place becomes important. When Christians gather, there is God (Matt 18:20). When this happens repeatedly over many years in places that act as memorials to encounter with the living God, in places that proclaim His glory through their beauty, then I think it helps us get caught up in the big story of God that stretches through the past, present and future, anchoring us and giving us hope. I think this is what cathedrals are starting to increasingly be symbols of, that God is present in places, He is not remote from us.

I think this is also why space is important.  Churches (or us in our individual Christian lives) that make space for an encounter with God, will experience an encounter with God. Churches with a Pentecostal emphasis seek to do this and teach this. The book of Ephesians talks about us being a dwelling place for God as individuals (Eph 3:17) and as a corporate body, a community built together by God (Eph 2:22). And because we are known fully by God, making space for an encounter with Him brings meaning, understanding and transformation to our lives.

Back to Psalm 84 then, and the reason for the name of this blog. I want to be where God dwells, my heart and soul yearn for Him. I want to see the places where He is dwelling and at work, and I want to make space for Him to dwell in my life and the lives of people around me.

No comments:

Post a Comment