MVLC Communication Director Troy Kehm-Goins’ devotion for Wednesday, May 20.
“I dwell in Possibility—” writes the poet Emily Dickinson. She is writing about poetry itself, but could easily be talking about a house, a home. Two years earlier, she wrote in another poem, influenced by Jesus talking about his promise of the many dwelling places in his Father’s house (John 14:2) that “Mansions must be warm! / Mansions cannot let the tears in— / Mansions must exclude the storm!”
Yet here we are, in the middle of a “storm,” a global pandemic. And, like the disciples after the crucifixion and death of Jesus, we are hiding out in our homes, in our dwelling places. Sheltering in place. Shut in. Feeling “trapped,” perhaps. I’m sure that you, like myself, like the disciples, have experienced moments of fear and cold and tears in your home as the storm rages.
The hope, though, is that God is always trying to reside with us. God wishes to dwell in our midst. Salvation history is filled with such reminders of God taking up residence alongside us, among us.
“Have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them,” God tells Moses. “I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God.” (Exodus 25:8 and Exodus 29:45) So the people construct the Ark of the Covenant and build the Tabernacle to house the presence of the Lord.
This “Tent of Meeting” was movable, just as the people were in exile, nomadic, on the move. Once the united monarchy of Israel and Judah was established under Solomon’s rule, a Temple was built to house God, so that God could reside in the city.
After the destruction of the Temple, the city, the monarchy, the nation, the people will still remember God in their midst through the cries of their prophets. “My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Ezekiel gives voice to the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:37) “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord,” Zechariah reminds us. (Zechariah 2:10)
Without a tent, without a temple, without a nation for his people, God “dwells in Possibility.” He imagines. He improvises. He takes up residence in the poetry, in the flesh of his Son. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10) Jesus is the new Temple. And when Jesus departs during the Ascension, he leaves the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit in our midst. He doesn’t leave us alone, but provides for us.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” writes the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 3:16) And to the Ephesians he writes, “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, [the Father] may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:16-17) Father. Spirit. Son. And we, God’s people, as dwelling place.
No longer is there a need for a tent, for we are the tent. No longer is there a need for a temple, for we are the temple. We are “members of the household of God…with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19-20)
Emily Dickinson writes about seeking the aforementioned mansions: “Could the children find the way there— / Some, would even trudge there tonight!” When I see your face on a Zoom meeting or hear your voice on the telephone, even though I cannot be in your actual presence, I believe that I have already found the Way toward those mansions and believe that I have already completed part of the journey to the promised dwelling place.
I too “dwell in Possibility!”
I am glad to call you brothers and sisters. I am glad to call you community. I am glad to call you dwelling place. I am glad to call you home.
Image: Photograph by Ian Schneider, unsplash.com/photos/PAykYb-8Er8, via Unsplash. Public domain.