“Where God Is” 2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Eph. 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34,53-56
Delivered to Church for the Highlands, Rev. Dr. John Henson
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 18, 2021
“Not seeing the forest for the trees” is a common expression we hear to describe someone who is shortsighted and unable to see the bigger picture of something. While not usually intended as a slur, the phrase does indicate the problem of being so focused on one thing in particular that the larger reality and context are missed. We all can so easily get locked into seeing something in just one way and miss the larger picture.
Isn’t that what happened to David, as we have heard in our first reading this morning in 2 Samuel 7? Once David had built a house and was finally settling in as King, it dawned on him that God did not yet have a house. As he said to Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Perhaps a little guilt is settling in as he looks out from his big, brand new house at the tent where the ark of the Lord is. But God says to him, “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.” David was obviously stuck in thinking that God was like him in needing a place of shelter and comfort, missing the many ways God had appeared and moved about without the limits of human structures.
Not to be too hard on David, there are other people who miss the forest about God too. Paul found that to be true about the church in Ephesus. Probably knowing the tendency people have to put God in a box, he wrote to remind them that they, as Gentiles, should know full well of how God breaks through all limitations. God transcended the boundaries of religion, as demonstrated by what Jesus had made possible for them with his grace, reconciliation, and peace. Even more, they now had unlimited access to God, even becoming dwelling places of God themselves.
So, as we’ve heard, David and the Ephesians both needed to see more of the forest than just the trees when it came to God. But the people we hear about in our gospel reading this morning don’t show any signs of having limitations about God. When Jesus came into their villages, they went out to meet him and brought their sick with them. They laid their sick before him and desperately sought his healing touch. And Jesus healed them. They freely accessed God’s healing presence and power through him, as God not limited by place or space but now in human flesh.
Now that we’ve heard about David, the Ephesians, and the villagers with Jesus, what about us? Are we stuck in thinking God is limited to a place, people, religion, or nation? Do we believe God can move about as God pleases, going wherever and doing whatever God wants to do? Have we failed to see the access we have to God because we are only looking at our human structures, religious divisions, racial differences, personal sins, or our illnesses? If we are honest, we will say yes. At times, we all suffer from the myopia of our limited view of God.
So, how do we broaden our view of God and, thus, enjoy the full access we have to God? One way is by seeing God in new places, opening our eyes and ears to take in God’s presence outside of our expectations. Going outdoors to look for God is a great activity you can do anywhere and anytime. You might see God in the breaking dawn, the playfulness of a squirrel in your yard, or the intricate beauty inside the bloom of a wildflower. You might sense God’s presence as you hear the hoot of an owl, the sound of the ocean, or the rolling thunder of an afternoon storm.
We can also access God by learning from other people’s faith and experience with God. Since God isn’t confined to our experience, religion, or building, we can learn a lot from other people. You can do this by hearing their stories, reading their sacred texts, and visiting their sacred places. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all recognized how God breaks the barriers that divide us?
Like the people in the villages Jesus entered, we find God when we go to Jesus, hurrying to get where he is as they did. As we go to him, we find access to God and the healing that comes from it. Even though we don’t have a physical Jesus in our midst, we can make contact with him at all times through his words and with our prayers. His words surely bring healing to what ails us and his compassionate touch mends us where we are broken. Jesus gives us that kind of access. And such access never disappoints.
As we go into this new week, there will be trees and there will be forest. May we keep our eyes open to see beyond what we’ve seen before. To see a God who goes beyond our limits and gives us access to so much more.