Where Does God Live?
By Fin Sheridan
In the last year, I’ve moved house 4 times. For a number of reasons, it’s been a steady process of packing, unpacking, carrying furniture up stairs, then carrying it back down a few months later. I *think* this most recent move was the last one for a while and so we actually made the effort to unpack fully. We don’t just have a house, now it feels like we have a home.
The other day, I was walking past a cathedral and I passed a dad with his son. They were looking at the ancient building, pointing out the gargoyles, the pigeons and the high turrets. As I walked past, the son said “Dad, why does God need such a big home?”. His dad laughed and replied “Because he’s very tall, I guess!”
The idea that God has a house comes straight from the Bible. There’s 540 references to “the house of the Lord”. Whether a tent or a temple, we find God inhabiting physical spaces. He commands Israel to build a specific tabernacle and then shows Solomon how to build him a temple. But that’s only half the picture.
Throughout the Bible, God is unravelling a greater truth: that he doesn’t “dwell in temples built by human hands” (Acts 7:48) but instead that “the dwelling place of God is with his people” (Revelation 21:3). We could say it another way: God might have a house but that’s not his home.
“Our attitude to church will change when we realise that the church gathering/service/event/worship experience/moment is not church. We are.”
This isn’t a new truth but it’s one we still have trouble grasping. The mental trap of ‘going to visit God in his house on Sunday’ is a wide one, as if he were a grandparent that we need to pop in and see. We arrive at the church service and ‘meet with God’. Then, we walk out, into our cars and go about our lives.
Sometimes it feels like we come to God’s house and we didn’t meet with him. When that happens, we feel discontent or disappointed: was God not at home today? Much of our frustration with ‘church’ is actually rooted in this misbelief. Did God forget that we were popping over? Why didn’t feel like he was there, in the singing, sermon or prayer? It’s the same time every week, how could he have forgotten?!
Our attitude to church will change when we realise that the church gathering/service/event/worship experience/moment is not church. We are. Believing this actually makes for a much more meaningful Sunday morning (or Sunday night, if you’re really crazy) because we view it in the proper way. This isn’t the time we are ‘visiting God’: we came to the church building with him and we’ll leave it with him. We might have been in “the house of God” but that’s not his home. We are.