Asking One Thing

I have asked one thing from the LORD—it’s all I seek—
to live in the LORD’s house all the days of my life,
seeing the LORD’s beauty and constantly adoring [God’s] temple. Psalm 27:4 CEB

Though it is not in the first paragraph as we were all taught in school, the fourth verse is the thesis statement of our psalm today. The writer desires to live in the LORD’s house all the days of his life.

Literally, the term LORD’s house refers to the temple in Jerusalem. As you may recall, the temple was the center of the Jewish faith at the time.  Jews would make a pilgrimage to the Temple each year if possible.

The psalmist wants to experience that holy, sacred time “all the days of [his] life.” He wants to be enveloped within God and the community of the faithful. 

I have asked one thing from the LORD,… to live in the LORD’s House all the days of my life. (from Psalm 27:4 CEB)

When the psalmist asks for one thing, it is to live in the Lord’s House because he finds it a place of safety and security. The psalmist finds roots and is grounded within his faith and within our God.

Though the psalmist refers to the Jerusalem Temple in the thesis, his song of praise and trust in God expands beyond that image. Throughout the psalm he uses various images of shelter to describe what is meant by the LORD’s House.

For example, in the first verse the psalmist sings,

The LORD is a fortress
protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything? Psalm 27:1b CEB

The Hebrew word translated as fortress in the Common English Bible, is translated in many modern translations (e.g.; NRSV, REB, RSV, NIV) as strongholdThough I understand the translators’ choice of stronghold, after some study this week I think the Common English Bible gets this one right.

The Hebrew word from which it is translated has a sense of a place as a means of safety. And, so, the idea of a fortress fits better. This is particularly true because of the imagery of place which threads its way through this psalm.

To the psalmist, God is like a fortress in whom we can find protection.

[pause]

There also seems to be a sense of urgency attached to the meaning of the original Hebrew word that simply does not come through in English. That meaning makes sense when you read the verses beyond the six upon which we’re focused today. In those later verses, the psalmist’s trust in God occurs not in the midst of an easy life but in a time of trouble. And so he is urgent in his appeal to God.

***

Another image of shelter that the psalmist uses appears in the fifth verse.

Because he will shelter me in his own dwelling during troubling times;
he will hide me in a secret place in his own tent; he will set me up high, safe on a rock Psalm 27:5 CEB

As Christians who came of age in the twentieth century, when we think of temple or church — the LORD’s house — we think of bricks and mortar, of stained glass that soars above us.

We may even think of European cathedrals or the white clapboard New England churches or simple churches on the American frontier. But those were not the images that would come to mind for our forebears in the faith millennia and millennia ago.

For a people whose story was formed through the exodus, the LORD’s house was also a tent.

Think about that for a moment. A tent is mobile. A tent can be taken with us to the margins. It can be put up wherever God needs us to be.

[pause]

Now here’s the part of this fifth verse that humbled me to tears while studying it this week:

Because [God] will shelter me in his own dwelling during troubling times; he will hide me in a secret place in his own tent; he will set me up high, safe on a rock. Psalm 27:5 CEB

That word translated as the verb shelter? In Hebrew it has the connotation of God hiding and protecting a treasure.

We are God’s treasure!

The psalmist seeks to live in the LORD’s house all the days of his life because it is there where he is treasured by God. God’s extravagant love is not something that was made up by Jesus in the New Testament.

Though it was revealed in a new way on Easter Sunday, God’s  inexplicable love didn’t come into being at the resurrection.

God’s unfathomable love that views us as treasures to be protected, is embedded in our elder testament, too. Of course, the psalmist asks but one thing of God!

Our ask of God need be only one thing, too, to live within God’s own tent embraced like a treasure!

Amazing. Humbling. Inexplicable.

***

I have asked one thing from the LORD—it’s all I seek—
to live in the LORD’s house all the days of my life,
seeing the LORD’s beauty and constantly adoring [God’s] temple. Psalm 27:4 CEB

Presumably, those of us who are here today find the Church a place of safety and security. Though it’s possible some of us are here out of guilt or habit, I suspect most of us find meaning in the teachings and faith of Jesus.

Most of us come to be a part of this community because we trust God loves us and treasures us as God’s own. We believe or want to believe that God’s tent shelters us even when times are tough.

I pray that we are also here to live into God’s dream for us. We want to be loving and justice-seeking people. We want to welcome others into the LORD’s house where we’ve found joy and community.

[pause]

Presumably, those of us who are here today find the Church a place of safety and security but not everyone does.

Often folks don’t find the church safe for reasons well-beyond our control. They didn’t grow up going to church. If they did, they may have been hurt by well-meaning but nonetheless hurtful people.

Maybe they are not among those who are deemed by our culture and our practiced faith as the “right kind” of people. They are gay or people of color or immigrants or poor or mentally ill or just folks with new ideas that make us uncomfortable.

And so the church says, “all are welcome” but to the outsider it sounds like, “all who become like us or pretend to be like us are welcome.”

We can’t transform the culture that rejects others but we can educate ourselves and transform ourselves so that we are more and more welcoming every Sunday, every day.

When we ask just one thing, to be in the Lord’s House everyday of our lives, we are committing to be the people God calls us to be. We are agreeing to welcome others into the loving shelter of God’s tent.

***

How can we make the tent called Condon United Church of Christ more welcoming of all of God’s people?

Well, the first thing we can do is commit to seeing things through the eyes of outsiders. Being hospitable, being welcoming is not about our motivation, our feeling, or even what we think we’re doing.

Hospitality and welcome is measured by how the stranger perceives it. Awhile back I met with a group of strangers. I was the outsider. In order to welcome me, what do you think they did? They made sure that every single dish served was vegetarian, not just one, but EVERY dish was made so that I could eat it.

That is the kind of extravagant hospitality — both in deed and metaphorically — that our faith calls us to for others! That is the kind of hospitality worthy of the LORD’s house.

Amen.

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Tim strives to share God’s extravagant love for all–no matter what & without strings. Seeking to follow the lure of the Spirit, Tim writes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in an era where Christianity has come to be associated with hatred and political wedge issues. “Heinous things have been said & done (& still are) in the name of the One who breathed in the Divine,” notes Tim, “but Jesus shows us that God loves extravagantly.” Following the teachings and life of Jesus is about inclusion not exclusion. It is about compassion, grace, and admitting no one has all the answers. It is about responding lovingly to the best of our human ability. It is about people not institutions. It is about social justice. It is about caring for creation. It is about being who we were each created to be. Tim is a former early childhood educator, a runner, a hiker, a devoted husband, father of two adult children and their spouses, and a grandfather of two perfect babies. The former pastor of the Condon United Church of Christ, Tim recently began serving the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Albany, Oregon. He writes from home, from the coffee shop, and wherever the trail leads him.

Posted in Old Testament, Psalm 27, Psalm 27:1-6, Psalms, Sermon

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Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

All materials by Tim Graves unless otherwise noted. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

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