Certainly, the twenty-third psalm is much beloved by people throughout the Christian church. Most especially we read this psalm during funeral and memorial services because of the comfort and consolation God provides through these words. In verse six, we have the assurance that God’s salvation is a certainty for his people, and that death will not be the final word, for we will live forever in God’s eternal kingdom. But what about this “house of the Lord?”
Again in Psalm 27:4, David says he seeks to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. Yet we know that God is not bound by physical walls. Scripture tells us that God does not live in temples, tents or any other structure built by humans. God is omnipresent, God is boundless and infinite. So what are we to make of this house of the Lord in which we seek to dwell? Do we hope to gain a place in some physical realm beyond our comprehension, or perhaps inside heavenly gates? Are we hoping that after death we spend eternity in a newly created city of God, or within the bounds of a beautiful garden such as the Garden of Eden? Perhaps, but as we read these words from Scripture looking only to our life after death, we are limiting the house of the Lord and God’s eternal promise.
Eternal means forever, now and always. If we seek to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, we must also include our earthly lives in the equation. Though it is not yet fully revealed, Christians profess the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on earth with the coming of God’s Word incarnate. Surely as Christ dwelled among God’s people, God’s kingdom burst forth in the earthly realm. To dwell in the house of the Lord forever; therefore, also must mean living as God’s people in his eternal presence, including the here and now. At the close of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says “Remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20).
As we are baptized into Christ crucified and risen, we realize that his promise of presence is an eternal one, meaning now and always. Christ has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Through his holy and life giving Spirit, Jesus comes to us in our times of need through the faith and witness of others who give of themselves, being as Christ for us. Living in the presence of God means offering our lives for the sake of others as well, inviting and welcoming all into our midst so that they may also see the goodness of God. We stand in the presence of God as we gather for worship and thanksgiving, as we pray for and with one another, and even as we forgive others as we are forgiven. Dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives means living in the presence of God each and every moment, among God’s people no matter where we might be, for where God’s people are gathered, so also is Christ there with us.
As I look out the window of my office this morning, I see the house of the Lord. I can see the people of God’s kingdom as they go about their daily tasks, some realizing their vocational ministry while others not yet understanding or knowing that Christ is indeed with them. Our mission and ministry as Christians is to be among the people of the world, to be as Christ for them, attending to their needs and proclaiming the good news of God’s forever promise through his Son Jesus Christ. The more we do this, the more we can begin to realize that we not only dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives, but that through our baptism, we are called in a very real way to be a part of this holy house of God. Let us seek this house now and always.