“A House of Cedar” by Muriel Lipp

July 19, 2015

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Dear God, be with us as we worship you and try to learn more about you.


There are four things I have been most moved by in our lectionary scriptures for this week.

God’s message to David in Second Samuel; go build me a house of cedar.

Psalm 89; God affirms David to express God’s holiness.

Ephesians 2; Jews and gentiles are one, and Jesus is the foundation stone.

Mark 6; Jesus making a meal of a few loaves and fishes for a throng of
people. Then he walks on water and heals many people.

I’ll start with the Samuel scripture where God tells David (who was to the Jews
of his day a leader sent by God) to build God a house. What does that mean? To
me it’s the birth of temples, synagogues, and later, for us Christians, churches.

Build me a house of cedar, says God. Since then we have all sorts of structures in
which we worship God. Of course I think mostly of this place where we are all
gathered now. This is our house of cedar, our Church. Not exactly cedar, since
we bought it as a storefront. However, when I come here I do feel God’s
presence, not just in the building, but in all of you who represent the love that
is the definition of Godself. And I’ll never forget those first days when we came
here from that grand building on Massachusetts Avenue. We had to bring a
bunch of chairs to worship on. I still have ours with my initials on them so i
could bring them home after worship. Of course we then bought these that we
now sit on. Also, we decided we wanted wood floors so these chairs could be
moved around easily. And how grateful lam for that, particularly since
Koinonia Mission Group was founded, and we’ve all had the benefit of table
fellowship right here in our chapel. Another thing we brought were chips of
our old dishes to make the mosaic atop the building that defines us. Little by
little this became our house of cedar—God’s house at 276 Carroll St.

Now the Ephesians scripture is more difficult—at least for me. It says Jews and
gentiles are one and Jesus is the foundation stone. For many Jews the messiah is
still to come, and Jesus is not the foundation stone.

Of course the mark scripture is not that easy either. Yes, Jesus is the Messiah to
us Christians
. He walks on water, feeds throngs of people with a few loaves and
fishes, and heals even those who just touch his robe. When you think about that
with your brain
, it’s hard to grab hold of. Most of us move south to our hearts
or spirits. How I see it, it’s like leaving the brain for another part of us. I think
of that wonderful book, the Cloud of Unknowing, which says, “Intend God
altogether.” but what does “intend” mean? I think it refers to meditation or
. Just sit quietly, using either a word or a flower or a blade of
grass. God and Jesus are there—probably more there than if we fumble around
with words.

For me the most difficult of all four of today’s scriptures is this Mark chapter.

First, Jesus walks on water–a miracle in itself. Then he and the disciples come
ashore, where they are met by a group of hungry and sick people needing food
and healing. Jesus and his disciples have only two fishes and some bread. Jesus
miraculously makes the fish and bread become a large dinner for all
, and then
he heals them one by one. Another miracle. Who but a messiah could do that?

But Jesus, in an earlier scripture says to his disciples, “You can do it too.
Just pray, and God will do the healing

One of the experiences I have had involving healing was when I was a member of a
health ministry on 9th street in northeast Washington, which began through a
call to a doctor, Jim Hall
. He was a member of New Community Church. As most
of you know, New Community is, like Seekers, one of the churches that grew 
from the Church of the Saviour. Jim became the leader of this health center, and it served people of all classes and races. Jim was a doctor, but no one called him that. He was just “Jim”– a quiet man, whose belief in healing covered prayer as well as the usual physical healing methods. However, that was some time ago, and Jim is no longer a member of New Community Church, nor a doctor. Now his call is to the environment, and he is a member of Dayspring Church, where he occasionally leads retreats. I believe one is coming up in the near future.

When I was on the board of Jim’s health ministry, together with our own Keith Seat, I learned a lot about healing. If patients couldn’t keep their appointments, Jim would drive out to their homes and treat them there. And if they worried deeply about their illnesses, he’d suggest going to a room with another member of the staff and pray with the patient, all holding hands. Is this what Jesus meant when he told his disciples, “You can do it too“?

Here is a story from that wonderful book, Who Dies?By Stephen Levine, who has worked extensively with Elizabeth KublerRoss: he says, “Once a saint and teacher was known as a great healer; thousands had come to him and had gone away healed. One day a doctor came to him and asked, “i understand you are a great healer. I would like to know more about how you do it.”

 The healer replied with honesty: “No, I am not a healer. I don’t heal anyone.” the visitor said, “I’ve heard you have healed thousands.” the healer replied with honesty, “No, I’m not a healer. I don’t heal anyone.” at that point a devotee turned to him and said, “what I think he means is that the healing comes through him.” Oh, yes,” said the healer. “Healing comes through.”

Maybe that’s the key to understanding today’s mark scripture. So many are
healed, and we wonder: Why? How? How do we define Jesus’ healing of so
many? Was it God working through him? And did the people who were healed
say thank you? I believe that when anything good happens to us we should say
thank you to God. That connects us. Maybe God is more present to us than we
realize. Usually we say grace before meals, and that connects us. How about
when we see a flower that moves us with its beauty, or even a blade of grass, or
someone we love? Shouldn’t we say, “I see you, God. Thank you.” Or when we are

But getting back to our mark text. Did people worship God in buildings? It seems to me that when Jesus lived, worship took place in the open, by the sea, in a boat. However, Jesus was a Jew. Did he worship God in a synagogue or temple? I’m sure he did, but he seems to have preferred the open spaces.

When we seekers first moved here to Takoma from 2025 Mass. Ave., I
often felt lonely and separated from the rest of the Church of the
Saviour. Where, Jesus, are you leading us? But of course that feeling
has gone away and I feel at home here. The dwelling of God is with
human beings. We are God’s people, and God is with us.

I would like to close with a verse from one of my favorite poems by
William Bake. He might not have meant it as a prayer, but I see it that

“To see a world in a grain of sand

And heaven in a wild flower,

To hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour.”

And may I add, thank you, God. Amen.

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