I have long been fascinated by spiritual dwellings. When I lived in NYC, I constantly found myself stepping into churches for when you live in the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, sanctuary takes on a whole different meaning. Many times I found myself on the brink of a melt down – tired and worn from noise, weather, crowds, pollution and traffic. To escape, I’d instinctually step into a cool, stone building where candles and incense burned. In a place where God’s presence felt palpable, I often found myself crying in relief.
Coming off our annual week of prayer at my church, I’m actively aware that there is something unique about actively seeking the presence of God with others that differs from everyday spirituality. Sure, God is everywhere and it isn’t necessary to physically go somewhere to find him. Yet there is something special and particular about drawing near to God’s presence in a dwelling or meeting place.
When it comes to God, “presence and meeting are variegated matters.” (Goldingay, 2004, p.401)
Feeding into my fascination, I’m immersed in the Old Testament right now so I’ve been reading about the beginnings of the sanctuary. Specifically, I’m drawn to the meeting tent. “Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.” Exodus 33:7. And specifically, I love how Yhwh comes to the tent, filling it with splendor in the form of a cloud. This cloud first appears at Sinai and then when the tent is erected and again when the temple is constructed.
So what are the chances that as I’m on my way to church one evening last week, an enormous cloud graces the horizon – almost like the mushroom formation after a nuclear bomb? I’m talking a GY-NORMOUS cloud. Not very likely. And yet I knew it was no coincidence. The same as I knew it was no coincidence later that evening when the group’s speaker referenced 2 Chronicles 5 & 6, mentioning that very cloud and its significance.
I believe “where two are gathered” in His name, He is there. It is another form of meeting tent. The same way He resides in me, as if I were a temple in which He shows up, filling me with His presence. Yet on special occasions, I long to be in the physical space of my father’s house. I long to go to the meeting tent and to wait for the cloud to appear with my fellow brothers and sisters. In fact, I long to be in “my father’s house” every day.
Oh, what a great week of prayer it was.