God on Monday
‘The Most High does not live in shrines made by human hands. The prophet put it this way: “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool. What sort of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what place will you give me in which to rest? Did not my hand make all these things?”' (Acts 7.48-50)
What on earth am I here for? Welcome to the twenty-six God on Monday reflection on 'purpose'!
We know quite a bit about Jesus’ life as an infant and adult. But what do we know about him as a young boy? Very little. But a passage in Luke’s gospel (2.41-52) gives us a snapshot that reflects his purpose.
You may know the story. Jesus has been with his father and mother to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. When his parents set off for home, they assume Jesus is amongst their travelling companions. It is only after a day’s journey that they realise he’s not actually in the group and hastily return to Jerusalem in search of him.
After three days that were filled, in his mother’s words, with ‘great anxiety’, they find their son taking part in a rabbinic seminar in the temple. Asked by his mother why he had treated her and his father in this way, Jesus replied ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ His words reflect the fact that Jews had a physical sign of God’s presence, as the temple was the house of God.
Some people consider a church building to be a house of God. They are not entirely wrong. It is common for people when they are in such a building to sense God's presence in a special way. But as the story of the New Testament unfolds, it becomes clear that God now inhabits the church as God’s people dispersed throughout society just as he once inhabited a building.
The pandemic has forced Christians all over the world to think more keenly about the difference between the church as a building and as the people of God. This is reflected in the millions of viewers the song The Blessing
has received. The recording, made at the height of the pandemic, is captioned ‘Our buildings may be closed. But the church is alive’. By June last year, it had already been recorded in 140 languages.
The boy Jesus had a clear purpose – to be in his Father’s house. The risen and ascended Lord Jesus is still to be found there. But that house is God’s people, which in many places in the world still cannot meet in person but in the providence of God gathers virtually through technology. In other words, the exalted king of the universe inhabits the ordinary work of human hands, from grand buildings to tiny microchips. God’s house is under construction wherever your hands are busy this week.
Peter S Heslam
, Director of Faith in Business, Cambridge