Let yourself become open to God and the knowledge that comes from the Word. Ask God for peace at this time.
Psalm 87 (NRSV)
On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you,
O city of God. Selah
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia—
“This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in it”;
for the Most High himself will establish it.
The LORD records, as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”
This is a psalm in celebration of Jerusalem as the city of God. As such, it is a psalm of thanksgiving for the “holiness of place.” It speaks of how certain places become memorable to us, sacred, as places in which God has been powerfully present to us. The Hebrew Scriptures are replete with stories in which ordinary places became sacred places of encounter with God. Following Jacob’s well-known dream, he said, “‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel,” which means the house of God (Genesis 28:17-19a).
Cumberland Presbyterians have a Bethel! It is McKenzie, Tennessee, and the home of Bethel University. Bethel has been a very special place to generations of Cumberland Presbyterians. It surely will be a special place for decades of students who have gathered there for the Program of Alternate Studies. Life-long friendships have been made in this place. Memories of times shared in worship, prayer, study, dining at table, and in just having fun will be treasured for a lifetime. Some, perhaps many, likely will say, “How awesome was this place!”
In Israel, sacred places were intended as reminders of how all of life was to be regarded as sacred space. God is present and at work, revealing and redeeming, not only in the places that have become sacred to us, but in every place and space. Bethel is a special place, but so is Nashville, Fort Worth, Cali, Kyoto, Hong Kong, Stevenson, Morgantown, and countless other places, urban, small town and rural, where Cumberland Presbyterians worship and serve the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Living God, we thank you for every place in which we have encountered you. Help us to recognize your presence in surprising and unexpected places. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Go with God.