St Mary’s Church Coddenham

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How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts

by | May 30, 2020 | Coddenham Church

Coddenham church

From the Rectory, 31st May 2020 – How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts[1].

For 2 months now we have been locked out of our church buildings.   Buildings which have spoken of the Lord’s presence through good times and bad, through suffering and joy, stand empty of human presence.  When many of us feel we need God most we find the door to his house says ‘locked – keep out’.  Zoom is good, but it only gets us so far.

Place is important to us.  Since time immemorial, humans have found or created special places to encounter God.  Some places just seem to open up a pathway to God – be that in the open air or in a building; thin places where heaven is noticeably close.  Other places, such as our parish churches, are soaked in the prayers of countless generations.  This is one reason why we turn to them in times of trouble, and miss them now they are closed

To those who first heard this Psalm, the house of God would almost certainly have meant the Jerusalem Temple.  They knew that God was omni-present but the Temple was the focal point for communal worship.  It stood as a symbol of God’s presence just as the Royal Standard at Buckingham Palace tells us that the Queen is in residence.  The destruction of the Temple, first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans, was a national disaster in part, at least, because It said ‘God has moved out’, but had he?  Seeking God, where to look?

Jesus was once asked, “where is the right place to worship, on a mountain in Samaria or in Jerusalem?” “Neither”, he replied, “true worship is in spirit and in truth”.  (John 4 v 20)

Important though buildings and landscapes are, place is just as much about attitude, mental and spiritual wellbeing, as it is about physical places.  The opening lines of the psalm may take us straight to the Temple in Jerusalem but from there we move swiftly on to the heart ‘Blessed are those whose strengths are in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion’.   And close with ‘O Lord God of hosts, blessed are those who put their trust in you.’  The psalmist moves us from temple building to the temple of the heart.

I look forward to the day we can once more enter our buildings and pray together; once more come together as physical community, not just a virtual community.   Meanwhile, in cyber space, physical space, public space or private space; the highway to God lies above all in our hearts, wherever we may be.

[1] Psalm  84

The Pew Sheet for this week is available in the Download section of the website.


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