Posted: 16 December 2014

Advent: Where should the Word of God be housed?

In today's reflection, Gill Dascombe, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference reflects on 2 Samuel 7.1-11,16, to help us to answer the following question, ‘Where should the Word of God be housed?’

The Ark of the Covenant

The John Rylands library in Manchester houses the earliest known portion of any New Testament writing ever found. The so-called St John Fragment, or Papyrus P52, is thought to date from between 100-200 AD and on it are a few words from the 18th chapter of John’s gospel, written in Greek.

Just think of it - those words have been there unchanged for nearly 2000 years, whilst kingdoms have waxed and waned, wars have been won or lost, whilst the earth has endured earthquake, flood and tempest and the human race and the human race has moved inexorably to the present day. The John fragment is an important and evocative object. But it is not the Word of God.

King David was also the custodian of an important and evocative object. The Ark of the Covenant was a wooden box within which were the words of the Law, as dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai, inscribed upon tablets of stone.

A word that is spoken out loud is gone in a moment. However, a word that is written down can last forever. For this reason, in the time of David, the written word was held in great awe. It was timeless and therefore divine. The Ark came to represent the very presence of God himself. From time immemorial the Ark had been kept in a tent, moving here and there with the wandering Israelite people, staying beside them and amongst them in whatever circumstances they found themselves, and conferring upon them the strength of God’s power and blessing.

So where should the Word of God be housed? David wanted to build it a shrine of cedar wood, but was quickly discouraged by the prophet Nathan. The living presence of God cannot be preserved in either a shrine or placed in a glass case like the John fragment for people to gaze and wonder at and then go on their way. 

Many years later when the gospel of John was being written, the author realised that, with the coming of Jesus, God’s word, God’s intention and desire for humankind, God’s presence and blessing through all of life’s trials had actually come closer to us than ever before, and would never leave his beloved people, when 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’

I wonder where you see the Word in the world around you?

How are you tempted to put the Word in a box, perhaps to keep God for the God parts of your life and ignore for the rest of the time?

What might you do to help others to see ‘God dwelling among us’?

By Gill Dascombe - Guest bloggers

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