Most of us think of the church building where we gather with other Christians as the house of God. We talk about ‘going to church’ and often spend a good deal of time, effort and money on the bricks, stones and mortar which allow us to gather at specific times and places.
Some of us recognise that the house of God is not confined to a building and that people make up the church. We are the house of God (Heb 3:6); we are the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
In the Old Testament we read about Jacob sleeping out in the open on his journey to Harran (Gen 28:11). It doesn’t sound a very comfortable experience: he used a stone as a pillow for his head. (Gen 28:11) But this turned out to be a hugely significant night for the wayward son of Isaac and Rebekah, for it was a night when he dreamt of a stairway between heaven and earth, when he saw angels ascending and descending and when he heard God speaking to him personally. (Gen 28:12-15) The result of this dream was that Jacob realised ‘surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.’ (Gen 28:16) He understood, ‘this is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ (Gen 29:17)
There are many places where we may sense God’s presence more keenly (often referred to as ‘thin places’, where the boundaries between heaven and earth seem negligible.) But in truth, God’s house can be found anywhere and everywhere, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt 3:2, Mark 1:15). God’s kingdom is near. God’s house, ultimately, is anywhere God is, and since God is everywhere, we can be in His house wherever we are.
This has tremendous implications for us, bringing sacredness to the ordinary and the divine presence into every aspect of our lives, no matter how boring, painful, exciting, tedious, joyful, sorrowful or mundane they may seem to us. The house of God for you today may be the kitchen sink, the workplace, the bus journeys you take; it may be the inside of a bathroom as illness keeps you pinned to the toilet or the noisy playgroup full of clamouring toddlers where it’s hard to hear yourself think, let alone God speak. It may be the boring meeting at work where people drone on or the anxious wait in a doctor’s surgery for news which may turn your life upside down. My prayer for each of us today is that we may wake up as Jacob did and realise ‘surely God is in this place and I was not aware of it.’ For as we realise God’s presence is with us everywhere, our lives are transformed.
I often wonder if the stone Jacob used as a pillow was one of the stones he used to build an altar in that place he named Bethel (‘house of God’). I often wonder how we, living stones, can actually be built together by God to become a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5). I think this happens as we learn to see God everywhere and in everyone. We’re all made in the image of God. Maybe we can also find God not only in those special places but in ordinary places too and also in the ordinary faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ.