Lately, I have been thinking about freedom and all of the facets this one word holds depending on one’s experiences and how each of us was raised. One of the freedoms that I have taken for granted is the freedom to worship. Going to church and celebrating my faith in God alone or in community has been intrinsic to who I am. Gratefully I have been able travel to other countries and tour churches and cathedrals in Italy, Greece, Germany, Turkey and Washington D.C. Their statuesque facades and the beautiful structures are a sight to behold however it is the local community church, which has had the most direct influence on me as a Christian.
Have you ever wondered if God was presence in your life and if the Almighty One would just show up in the flesh; just once and then your faith would be more real? Ok maybe that is just me! I believe Israel struggled with that same thought. Even though God worked through Moses and Aaron to acquire their release from the Egyptians, they often did not trust in God’s faithfulness to them. God was ever present with them even when they could not see any sign of his presence. Eventually, God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle that would stand in the midst of the people’s encampment. Once the tent tabernacle was finished, God settled into the building as a great cloud by day and fire by night, which could be seen by all of the people of Israel. It says in Exodus 40:34, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” This tabernacle was a visible sign that God was with his people, wholly and Holy present!
Reading through this text got me thinking if this could be the same for us today? The churches that I have visited or attended are in the midst of communities whether city or rural and could be seen as symbols of God’s presence in those neighborhoods. I live in St. Petersburg, FL and in the past it was known as the “City of Churches,” which means that you are never far away from a church when driving around the town. Even when I lived in rural Minnesota, country church steeples dotted the horizon. What a privilege it is that we live in this land with the freedom to see neighborhood church steeples standing tall as a sign of God’s presence in communities throughout the land. I know the building itself is not the actual church. We are the church and as believers we bear witness through our love and actions that God lives in and works through us. However seeing a church nestled into a community is a good reminder that God is present and faithfully with us just as God was present with Moses and the Israelite's.