Movable Presence

23 Pentecost
First reading and psalm
: Joel 2:23-32Ps. 65
Alternate: Sir. 35:12-17 or Jer. 14:7-10, 19-22Ps. 84:1-62 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18Luke 18:9-14

In a parish church that can seat no more than 40 people and that feels mostly full and robust with 18 souls, there is from the moment of arrival and personal greetings to the tolling of the bell and the liturgy and the supper to follow a deep sense that each person is a beloved child of God. Collectively, these are the children of Zion (Joel 2:23-32). “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). For so long this was a hope and promise, until the promise became flesh and dwelt among us, until the promise became indwelling Spirit, making life itself and resurrection the solid core of a Christian life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

This meeting of souls is a divine and human transaction. The Spirit is poured out on all flesh, and to you [God] all flesh shall come” (Joel 2:28; Ps. 65:2). “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20 KJV). The tone is remarkable and palpable where Christ is: Joy and gladness and the early rain, the full harvest and vats of crushed grapes and olives, plenty and satisfaction, the long and eternal life of a living Lord among these frail human beings (Joel 2:23-26). This is the house of God, the holy temple (Ps. 65:4). “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” (Ps. 84:1). Only 18 people in attendance and yet the river of God is full and the grain plenty (Ps. 65:9).

Then the end comes. The blessing is announced, the dismissal given, kind words shared, belongings gathered, and then the road back home. Still, the grace of the gathering, the real presence, is carried into the street; like a small Christ on the shoulder of St. Christopher, the disciple and the Lord are one: one in the temple and one at home.

Once upon a time there was a man who “went down to his home justified” (Luke 18:14). He is remembered for his humility, but little notice is given to those striking words, “he went down to his home.” He went up to the temple to pray, and then he went home. A demoniac, having been healed by Jesus, wants to follow him. But Jesus says: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you” (Mark 5:19). Again and again Jesus enters a home.

It is no small thing to live where Christ is. The mind of Christ is huge and expansive. It feels and sees portents in the heavens and on the earth, greets morning and evening as gateways to God, feels the soft rain and the bliss of growth (Joel 2:30; Ps. 65:8-9). And yet the mind of Christ, the one who yet bears his scars, is not afraid of pain. He bears it with all the compassion and cost of his agony and death. The river of God is full of water and blood (Ps. 65:10; John 19:34). Christ flows into and completes and elevates all happiness, all gladness, all rejoicing. He is also a consoling balm, the inner advocate, a replay of love and hope. In a small room, with the door shut, alone, and yet alone is never alone. Christ is the deep breath of being.

Christ makes a nest in the temple. He is there, irrevocably there. He is also at “the earth’s farthest bounds,” in a home, wherever it is (Ps. 65:8).

Look It Up: Read Matt. 18:20.

Think About It: “Where are you staying?”

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