Wednesday, October 3, 2012

God's Shekinah

Dear Friend,

I wasn’t having a bad week. Really I wasn’t. But I was just feeling spiritually dry. For awhile my prayers had felt shallow and ineffective. I did all the things I know that “work” to bring me into God’s presence and instead of being filled with a spiritual joy, I just felt tired and worn out. I had tried various monastic disciplines and Christian practices that usually help to spiritually recharge my dry, empty soul but this time to no avail. 

Then God showed up on His own. I was in my study one morning working on a sermon while my dog Elysee slept beside my chair. I turned and saw that the morning sun had streamed through the window where a red, stained-glass cross hangs. It was as if God was saying to me, “I’m here with you.” The presence of God and His glory filled my house and I remembered the Story of the Shekinah.

Shekinah“The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to dwell among men."

The Hebrew word “Shekinah” is found in the Bible but the “Story of the Shekinah” comes from mystical Judaism. The Jews returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity to  find that King Solomon’s temple, where they had worshiped for 500 years, had been destroyed. The Persian king had conquered Babylonian, and given the Jews special permission to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. Their hope for a renewed civilization on their native soil was at an all time high. They worked hard to rebuild that once magnificent temple but the riches and splendor, available when the original temple was built, were no longer there. When the Jews saw their restored temple they wept in despair. The floors that once glowed with a gold-leaf overlay were now plain stone. The once glorious temple had lost its majestic opulence. As they wept, a dazzling, light-resplendent Presence descended. The Shekinah – God’s personal presence – filled their new humble, modest temple with glory. The people knew they were home and in God’s presence once again. The Shekinah faded out, but God’s glory stayed behind.

The word Shekinah is used to describe God’s illuminating and light-filled presence that brings an awareness of God to a time and a place where God is not expected to be. It’s when God shows up unexpectedly to encourage or affirm. It’s when in the midst of spiritual emptiness, the shadow of the cross glows in a dazzling, brilliant square of sunlight, and God says, “I’m here with you.”

We need the Story of the Shekinah to remind us that in the middle of our humble, modest, disorganized, cluttered, busy and exhausting life, God shows up. In the magnificent temple, the well-worn church building, the small, cramped apartment and in the back alley, God manifests His presence. In the places where we would least expect God to be, He says, “Here I am.” And, during our times of spiritual, dry emptiness, God reminds us that He has been there all along. In the Story of the Shekinah, when God’s presence filled the restored temple, the people lifted up their arms in praise. There is nothing other that we can do in His presence but to give Him our praise.  Amen?