It is not unusual to get people off the street asking if they could have a look inside our main church building. However, there have been other times people have asked if they could go inside to have a time of meditation and/or prayer. They wanted to feel close to God, even if it’s only for a brief moment. A cleaner we used to employ loved cleaning our church because he could feel God’s presence there.
I remember visiting the 18th century rococo style Marble Church, in Copenhagen, years ago. It has the largest dome in Scandinavia. I was awed by the interiors of the building. As I was praying, the organist started playing this beautiful tune. I distinctly felt God’s presence right there and then.
But in the Scripture, most of the God encounters we read about take place in ordinary, everyday places, at the unlikeliest of times. Take for instance God appearing to Abraham near the oak grove while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day. Decades later, God makes an appearance to his grandson, Jacob, in a dream at an ordinary place, handy for a stopover. Jacob was not even pursuing God.
You see, up to this point, Jacob’s faith in God was not his own but his parents but God in his grace obliged and revealed himself to Jacob. God went on to assure him that he would work with him, in him and through him wherever he finds himself. Jacob’s visit from God caught him completely off guard, he remarked, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”. His encounter with God left such an indelible mark on him he renamed the place, ‘Bethel’, which means ‘house of God’!
If your frontlines, everyday places where you work, study and do life feel ordinary, boring and stressful, may Jacob’s story encourage you and help you see that, “Surely the Lord is in these places!”, no less than in ‘holy places’ like church buildings. This is not wishful thinking. We can make this declaration because God dwells within us now by the Holy Spirit.
Our primary calling is not to do something or go somewhere but to follow Christ wherever He leads. If by following Jesus has led us to where we are and do what we do, then we can go to your frontlines with the expectation that Jesus will be at work there and we can seek to join in with what he is doing there. This is how Paul helped slaves made sense of their situation (read Colossians 3:22-25).
So my brothers and sisters, let’s learn to say like Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place” but unlike Jacob, add, “but I am aware of it!”.
Lord, increase our faith in you!