Building a house

19 July 2009
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11B (RCL)

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

David, firmly installed as king of Israel and Judah, living in his own palace in the city of Jerusalem, which he won by conquest from the Jebusites (so it belongs neither to Israel nor Judah) and having brought the ark to his city, want to build a fine house for the ark. Such a temple would signal the permanence of the cult as well as the permanence of the kingship. David would have divine imprimatur for his reign. But God declines. God is used to living in tents. Instead, God will build David a house, establish a dynasty. The ark went to war with the northern tribes (recall the scene at Jericho), and so it belonged in a tent. David was a military leader — kept a standing army. The combined kingdom would never be quite secure in David’s lifetime, but only in Solomon’s, and then only for his lifetime.

I don’t like the military metaphor, but this story is a reminder that we don’t live in a stable kingdom. The reign Jesus proclaimed has not been established. We still live “in tents”, working to bring it about. But the story also reminds us that we don’t bring it about, we don’t build the house. God does. We’re in the vanguard.

Jesus sent out the 12, two by two, with staff in hand, no bread, no bag, no extra coat, with power over unclean spirits. They were to accept the hospitality of those who would give it, heal the sick, and preach repentence. By plopping the story of Herod’s court, and the beheading of John down in the middle of this story, Mark is asking, “Which is the Kingdom? Herod, or the twelve?” They were out there doing “hands-on, face-to-face” ministry, welcoming the sick, the demon possessed, the broken to a table they didn’t set, and saying, “this is the kingdom, not Herod’s court.” When they return, they tell Jesus everything they’ve done. And, even though we skip it in this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus has them feed the multitude in the desert. They are on their way to the promised land.

The author of Ephesians talks about Jesus, in his death, tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. Through his blood, both groups are adopted as children of God. And then built into a house for God’s presence. Those crazy christians are making stunning claims for their worship — this is where the God of all creation is present to that creation. This is the house God has built. But any “us and them” means the house isn’t finished yet — there is still a wall to come down.

Our General Convention continued the hard work of tearing down walls this past week. Resolution D025, while insisting that we want to continue as part of the Anglican communion, and acknowledging that not all of our Anglican partners, nor even all of us quite get it yet, said that the call to ordained ministry is a mystery, and God may well call gays and lesbians to all orders, and our discernment process will be governed by our own Canons. It may seem like the whole structure will totter if we tear down that wall (the rest of the communion may think we are ‘walking apart’), but we have to remember, God builds the house. Our task is to get as many people into it as we can.

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