How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
June 11, 2017
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday
Psalm 84; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 10:25-37
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of desolation
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
Happy is everyone who trusts in you, O Lord hosts!
compiled from Psalm 84
Psalm 84 can evoke a strong emotional reaction if we open our heart to it. We long to feel as much at home as the writer did in that lovely dwelling place of God. If we have ever felt unconditional welcome, refuge and love we remember how our heart sang for joy to be there—maybe our childhood home, or a grandparent’s, or a friend’s, or the home we made with our spouse. Happy are those who experience such a dwelling place.
We long for churches to be lovely like that, but today many congregations struggle with conflict as they face the effects of a rapidly changing social context, including diminishing attendance and respect. Outside the church society is increasingly divided by politics and race and a widening gap between rich and poor. Earth itself feels like a less welcoming home as we come back from walks through Vermont’s beautiful woods and fields covered in ticks, and the weather grows stranger and more extreme.
All this increases our longing for God’s lovely dwelling place, and decreases our hope that we will find it.
But the Psalm was written by a people who had suffered exile for generations and learned how to find hope where there appeared to be no hope. The Psalm speaks to those of us who are far from having a lovely dwelling place, who are strangers in a strange land, who feel the world is nothing like God’s realm and is hostile to it. The Psalm holds out comfort and hope to the hopeless when it says, “Happy are those whose strength is in God, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”
Continue reading Sermon, June 11, 2017