Real Presence and the Ark of the Covenant
 And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing...  And David danced before the LORD with all his might. (2 Samuel 6)
This weekend Pastor Mike walked us through the story of David bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. There's a lot going on in this episode: Uzzah's death, David's dance, Michal's mockery. But this week I was thinking mostly about what the ark of the covenant represented to the people of Israel.
If you've seen the Raiders of the Lost Ark, you remember the scene where the Nazis get their faces melted off. I was 5 years old when my parents took me to see that movie, and I knew even then I probably wasn't supposed to be seeing something that scary. But I guess it was better than Rambo, which they took me to see a year later. (I was the 5th child, and my parents were kind of mailing it in at that point). Anyway, that's what I thought of whenever I read about the ark of the covenant. It wasn't till years later that I began to think more about what the ark meant to Israel.
The ark of the covenant was a box that contained three items: the tablets of stone delivered to Moses on Mt Sinai; a jar of manna from the wilderness years of wandering; and Aaron's rod that budded as God challenged Pharaoh and his magicians. These objects were the continuing reminder that God worked among them: commanding them (the tablets of the Law); providing for them (the manna), and saving them (the rod). The ark was a concrete reminder of God's presence among them, and a revelation of what his character and disposition toward his people was like. Knowing this, it's easier to see why David felt such great joy at returning the ark to the center of the community that he laid aside his royal robes (and the normal dignity associated with a king) and danced with all his might. (Think Footloose, as long as we're talking about 80's movies. By the way, isn't it weird that in Footloose, dancing was banned in the town. A whole town run by Michals.)
Here's the point: the sacraments hold a similar place in the life of the Church. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are more than religious memorabilia -- they are visible, tangible reminders of God's presence commanding, providing and saving his people. When we are batpized (or witness a baptism), or when we make our way up to the Table to receive communion, we can know and trust that God is still with us and working among us. This is a tremendous comfort amidst all our challenges. It is also a tangible accountability -- God really is here and my life belongs to him. And it is a source of joy -- the God of the universe welcomes us into his presence, and desires to meet with us still. When those things strike you, it's okay to dance a little bit.
Our annual summer picnic is on August 11 at Strickers Grove. It's an incredibly fun night, and an easy thing to invite friends to. So start asking neighbors and coworkers and school friends to join you.
Moments of Deep Unrest
One of the reasons I like old hymns and old hymnwriters is so much, is they seem to understand the ups and downs of the soul. This is a prayer by George Matheson (1842-1906), who wrote one of our favorite songs to sing at New City, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.
O my Father, I have moments of deep unrest -- moments when I know not what to ask by reason of the very excess of my wants. I have in these hours no words for Thee, no conscious prayers for Thee. My cry seems purely worldly; I want only the wings of a dove that I may flee away. Yet all the time Thou hast accepted my unrest as a prayer. Thou hast interpreted its cry for a dove's wings as a cry for Thee. Thou hast received the nameless longings of my heart as the intercessions of Thy Spirit. They are not yet the intercessions of my spirit; I know not what I ask. But Thou knowest what I ask, O my God. Thou knowest the name of that need which lies beneath my speechless groan. Thou knowest that, because I am made in Thine image, I can find rest only in what gives rest to Thee; therefore Thou hast counted my unrest unto me for righteousness, and hast called my groaning Thy Spirit's prayer. Amen.