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Glory in a tent

Bible ReflectionPosted by Rev John Edward Staton Tue, November 05, 2013 20:55:06


Have you ever seen glory in a tent? What is your experience of tents? Mine includes a week on Anglesey in a tent with another BB Officer attempting to help run a camp while it poured with rain incessantly, and also a week at Taize with young people of different European nations when the sun shone. The latter experience was undoubtedly more enjoyable and taught me a lot, but glory?

However, when John's gospel tells us about how.God's son came to live among us, he says,"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (literally "lived in a tent") among us. We have seen his glory...."

What is this glory we have seen? This is what John has been telling us in the bit before this. This "Word" is the one who was there before creation and was God's partner in bringing the world to be. He is the light that shines in the darkness and evil of this world, and that darkness cannot overcome it or snuff it out. That light shines on every person, and gives to everyone who will receive him the right to be a child of God. This person could be none other than God. But would you put up God in a tent? Apparently, God quite likes the idea. Throughout the time the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness and even after they had entered the land, he lived in a tent - usually called the Tabernacle, but tabernaculum is just Latin for "tent" - and didn't seem that keen to move into a fixed building when David suggested the idea. Solomon built a Temple, but Solomon doesn't have as good a reputation as David for being in tune with God's wishes in Scripture.

Why should God like tents? Firstly, because they are humble. If you walk into the British Foreign Office, or the Capitol in Washington, or the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, you are meant to be awed into silence by the grandeur of the architecture and the decoration. The message is that you are in the presence of one of the world's great powers and you should be respectful. But the greatest power of all preferred his earthly dwelling to be a tent - probably like a Bedouin tent. He is humble and accessible to us in our need, and far from cowing us into submission, he wants to be our friend.

Secondly, tents are portable. God and his glory is with us wherever we go: he is not tied to sacred places. Wherever we go, whatever trouble we may be in, we can talk to God, and he will listen and talk back to us. And he will help us. We can never wander outside his sphere of influence, because that sphere extends to every place.