The men’s group at church had an online breakfast and prayer meeting today as part of the global movement called Thy Kingdom Come (prayer for the ten days between Ascension and Pentecost, started by the archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016). When I checked my phone this morning, I spotted a message from the co-ordinator of the group asking if I could kick off the prayer section with a scripture that had struck me recently.
That kind of thing is a privilege but also brought a moment of panic. There aren’t many days where I don’t interact with the Bible in some way but there isn’t always a portion that particularly stands out and which seems to fit a moment like this. I’m glad I had a little notice (and that I’d checked the phone – I was mainly thinking about getting my breakfast cooked).
What I went for was Acts 7:48: “God does not live in houses made by human hands”. Yesterday, with the help of Tom Wright’s commentary on Acts, Jane and I had been studying the chapter. Wright describes Stephen’s speech as being like a bowler’s run up in cricket. I don’t know how much time Stephen had to prepare his speech but he was lit up by inspiration, to the extent that his face shone, and he bowled a googly to his inquisitors. Most of the run up had been rehearsing a history that most of them would have happily agreed with. The sharper among them might have spotted a few things to warn them but this point in the message is when the ball is released and its devastating force becomes clear.
For this morning though, I wanted to draw out two particular points. Firstly, that God does not dwell in the houses we have built ‘for him’ is an encouragement during this period when we can’t use the buildings – or the patterns of worship – that have been familiar in the past. Secondly, where God does dwell is simultaneously on his throne and, through the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of believers.
That gift is what we celebrate at Pentecost and so it seemed very apt to share this morning as we prepared to pray as part of the lead up to that. Of course, set me the same task in a week and, hopefully, I’d find something different. I’m glad Jane and I put in the study time yesterday, which saw me stocked for today, but it is something to be gathered daily.