My daughter Natalie called me laughing on a Sunday afternoon. She had just been to church in her college church in Springfield Missouri. She told me that the pastor was preaching and asked a rhetorical question. He asked, “What was it that distinguished the Jews from all the people of the world?” A man raised his hand sure of the answer and blurted out for all to hear-“Circumcision!” The crowd tried to hold back their laughter while the embarrassed pastor said that while it is true that the Jews were known for circumcision, it was the Presence of God that distinguished them from all the people’s of the earth.
Exodus 25 begins describing the articles of the tabernacle which was to be a place that God dwelt. This marks a change, because from before that time, God’s presence visited the people but didn’t dwell with them. Dwelling means that God is “moving in” with his people. For better or for worse, the people of Israel and those of us who follow Christ will be known by our relationship to the one true God. When we are rebellious, God’s Presence reminds us of our foolishness and calls us back into relationship. When we follow God closely, his Presence brings the favor of God into our lives.
God is fiercely faithful. When God moves in, he doesn’t leave. We are unfaithful at times and we try to leave, but once God commits to staying, it’s for keeps. We live in a world of unfaithfulness. I saw T.D. Jakes preach yesterday and he was talking about the covenant of marriage which means we stay together even when we don’t feel goose bumps. He pointed out that people even leave churches when they don’t feel goose bumps. Dwelling together brings the relationship to a whole new level. God says, I’m moving in, and I’m not leaving. If we are ever apart, its only because you moved and not me.
I’m a bread man. It’s true. When the rolls are called up yonder I’ll be there. I think bread gets a bad rap. In the “land of plenty” we have relegated bread to a side dish, but in my opinion, bread is worthy of main course status. On Valentine’s Day, My beautiful wife and I went to a swanky place called the WormanHouse overlooking Table Rock Lake in Branson. The special of the night was filets covered with crab. Before, the main course, however, the waiter brought wonderful oven fresh spicy bread to our table. The filets were just ok, but the bread was GREAT!
In our reading, the Presence of God is symbolized by this table containing the Bread of the Presence. The table stood just outside of the curtain which contained the ark of the covenant which is where the Presence of God resided in all of its fullness. When I picture the bread sitting on the table just outside the curtain, I imagine bread that sits under a heat lamp that keeps it warm and fresh and tasty. There are twelve loaves which represent the twelve tribes of Israel. In other words, the bread is us. Just as this bread sat outside the ark of the covenant and soaked in the Presence, we are to soak in the presence of God and nourish a world that is starving for the Presence of God.
I’m frankly troubled by a Christian world that often goes after the exotic and the novel while skipping that which we need the most-the bread of His Presence. The latest fads and even the most exotic gifts mean nothing without the Presence. People run from church to church looking for “something more’ while they ignore the fresh daily bread served daily. Don’t settle for any cheap imitations. Be a bread woman or a bread man. That is what distinguishes us from the rest of the world.