Dear People of St. Stephen’s,
“Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” (2 Sam. 7:5b-7)
King David thinks that the ark of God needs a proper home—a house of cedar instead of a tent. But God has other plans. God informs David, through the prophet Nathan,
I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, … Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.” (8b-11)
God had great plans in store for David. God made David the Father of a kingdom. We face the same challenge and shortsightedness that King David faced. We often think we know what’s best for us and what God is up to. But God works outside our human logic and often has great plans for us that come in the least expected or logical packages. We are challenged to listen and open our hearts and minds to God’s new ways for us.
Last Sunday, I preached about the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, our primary governing and legislative body that meets every three years. Due to the decline in membership of the church across this country and an inability to fund the budget as has been done in the past, this convention was a pivotal one for our church. Delegates were invited to dream big. To think about and discuss where God might be leading this church.
Two of the topics addressed were the structure of the church and the church headquarters in Manhattan. Part of what came out of those discussions is a task force that will reimagine the workings of the Episcopal Church. It will gather ideas about possible reforms to the structures, governance and administration of the Episcopal Church.
In terms of the church’s central offices, the sale of this property was not approved but the convention did vote to relocate the offices. The church will continue to discern how to best use the buildings in Manhattan, hopefully to generate revenue, but it was decided that the Presiding Bishop and the Church Center offices will find a new home. We all know how important buildings and history are to us Episcopalians, so even having this on the table for discussion is a BIG BIG deal.
The convention opened itself up to listen to God—to see where God might be leading us as a church. It is easy for us to think we know what God needs, whether it is a cedar house or offices in Manhattan, but God continues to remind David, and us, that God has brought us this far. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went…” (8b).
God reminds David, and us, that God’s dream for us continues. There is more in store.
In prayerful hope of something new!