The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

fredag 22 augusti 2014

That special day at the house of Obed-Edom

I don't know what special days you have at your house. Perhaps Christmas or some other religious holiday. Birthdays, for sure, but maybe the last day before school starts or maybe the last day of school in the spring. I know many people who have "Fredags mys", which means Friday-night-with-movie-and-chips. In Sweden we even have "name" days where someone decided to give certain names certain days to be celebrated on. Few do this and I can see why.

We usually have special days to celebrate or highlight something special that has happened, even if it is as trivial as having "survived" another week with an empty/fun weekend to look forward to. When I was younger I always said that it was the "normal" days that were important to enjoy since there were lots more of those compared to "special" days...and I still think that is a good idea. That is why I think it is really stupid for commercial radio hosts in Sweden to perpetuate the dreariness of work and the joys of the weekend with "Friday afternoon blast!" or "How to survive Mondays". That means that 5 out of 7 days of your whole life were just a boring transport to the remaining 2. That makes for a lousy life, I think.

However, special days are fun days to enjoy and there is nothing wrong in celebrating special events. Usually, that means being with people that we care about and love. We don't want to celebrate special days alone, if we have a choice. We want to be loved, appreciated or valued by someone else than ourselves. We want to matter and we want someone else to think that we matter. We want them to enjoy us, surprise us or think of us.

In my devotion time today I read about a guy named "Obed-Edom". He is not a well-known character. Chronicles mentions him twice in the Bible. He lived during the time of king David and was (probably) a gatekeeper who had many children and relatives work with him. He was also the man who had to take care of the Ark of the Covenant when king David was too scared to bring it in to Jerusalem.

Think about it. There is a knock on your door and when you open it you see a huge amount of people with King David front and center. You see an enormous amount of people in the middle of a festival, a celebration of something wonderful for the whole nation. The holy Ark of the Covenant was coming home to Israel, to the recently conquered Jerusalem...except the mood has for some reason turned somber. You wonder what the heck is going on because it is not making any sense. Why have they stopped in front of your house?
Then you see it. There is a dead man lying on the ground. This is not good.
Then you see the king, looking serious and troubled, making his way to you. You bow to the ground and wonder what. is. happening. The king declares, solemnly, that the ark is to be taken to your house for safe keeping.


And so it is. The Levites quickly bring the ark to the front of the mass of people and make their way to your front you scramble to figure out exactly how and what and why this is happening. Is the house clean? Where is the ark gonna be? Do I have room for it remembering that it. can't. be- touched!!!
You run back to your house just in time for your wife to come of out the doorway, wondering what is going on...just in time to see your panicked face and the most holy of Holies, the Ark, following closely behind you, carried by the most holy Levites. The panic spreads to her face too. Cleaning day is tomorrow, oh, the irony!

The king and his followers have left. The Levites have put the Ark in the corner of your house, carefully, and left just as quickly as they came. The dust has settled and you are sitting/reclining with your wife at the kitchen table, looking at it. "-Well, that went well.", you think to yourselves. Your wife's face tells a different story. What are we gonna do with the Ark. Of. The. Covenant. in our living room? Good question. Why did the king leave it here? Another good question...but you suspect it has something to do with the dead guy. Better have some more tea (or whatever they drank those days).

By all accounts, this was a special day in the life of Obed-Edom. For all intents and purposes, God had just moved into their living room and I wonder what they thought and did right after it was placed in their house and the king had left. What did they think? Did the Ark shine in the dark? Did it look any different than a normal box? Was there a certain smell? Could you tell if there were blood discoloring or something still there on the mercy seat in the middle right in between the two angels from all those "Day of Atonement" celebrations?

There had been a great number of people there that day but that hadn't come for his sake. Heck, they probably hadn't even come to his house on purpose, as far as he knew. They had come to his house because it was the first house available to get rid of the Ark...or had they maybe heard of his devout service as a gate keeper and sought him out? We will never know.

But we do know that for three months the Ark stayed at his house and that God greatly blessed his household. Seemingly, they managed not to touch it although we can be sure there were lots of changes in that household. I also find it hilarious that we often hear that "God is bigger" or that we must not put "God in a box", yet there he was, blessing this family for three months all due to a box.
You can be sure that the friends of Obed-Edom all came by his house, looking and asking and wondering about the Ark. You can be sure that Obed-Edom's life was never the same again. You can be sure that his faith and his relationship with God was forever altered.

So, we think of the New Testament and Jesus when we think of people meeting God. We are asked if we have a personal relationship with Jesus, although we struggle with having a personal relationship with someone we can't see or hear or touch (although how many Facebook friends have you see, heard or touched this year?). We are stuck in two worlds, solidly stuck in this world of matter and stuff, while also longing and looking for those unseen things in life, like love, respect, worth, honor...those things we associate with special days and celebrations. Would we rather have a friend visit us or send us a gift in the mail?

In conclusion, we often say that God lives, or should live, in our hearts. Do we even know what that means? Where is the heart, exactly? How does God get there and how do we know that He is there? How do we know that He knows us?
True, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being "in" us after His ascension, and I believe that. God living in us, our hope of glory, as the Scripture says.
But perhaps we should not forget that God likes matter. I'm not saying that we should start building boxes and making them out to be altars or Arks or something. But I think we should consider ways to make God move into our living rooms, visibly, to help us alter our lives around the simple fact that God is indeed in those who have surrendered to him and seek to live according to the Spirit.

The conclusion is this. Does God live in your house? I assure you that no one who ever visited Obed-Edom's house ever doubted that.

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