Tents, Temples, Churches and Chapels

“The tent, which was called the meeting tent, Moses used to pitch at some distance away, outside the camp. Anyone who wished to consult the LORD would go to this meeting tent outside the camp.” (Exodus 33:7)

We hear in today’s first reading that God comes down from a remote mountain top to a tent outside the camp. The tent is be taken down and pitched again, as Moses asks the Lord. “If I find favor with you, O LORD, do come along in our company.This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”

God comes along in the company of stiff-necked people.. What a beautiful way to put it!

Eventually the tent becomes a temple, once the people are settled in the land. Psalm 15 sees the two together. “O Lord, who can abide in your tent? Who can dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart. ( Psalm 15.1–2)

N.T. Wright, in his book “The Case for the Psalms” comments on how unbelievable this presence of God seems in today’s world that, like the Epicureans of old, can only accept gods who are remote and uninvolved or like the Stoics can only accept gods who are hidden to a pantheistic universe. 

The tent and the temple are not convenient gathering places “ they are the place of promise, the place of presence, the place out of all the earth where the living God has chosen to live.”

“The Temple turns out to be an advance foretaste of YHWH’s claim on the whole of creation. We are to see the Temple as establishing, so to speak, a bridgehead for God’s own presence within a world that has very determinedly gone its own way. It is a sign that the creator God is desiring not to provide a way to escape from the world (though it may sometimes feel like that) but to recreate the world from within, to set up a place within his creation where his glory will be revealed and his powerful judgments unveiled.”

(Wright, N. T.. The Case for the Psalms (pp. 91-92). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.) 

Can we see our churches and chapels in that light?

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