by Joe Greemore
Scripture: Psalm 15 (The Voice) – A song of David.
[A recurring theme in the psalms is the dwelling place of God and its importance in worship. This Davidic psalm considers the moral qualities of the person who wishes to approach God.]
1 Eternal One, who is invited to stay in Your dwelling?
Who is granted passage to Your holy mountain?
2 Here is the answer: The one who lives with integrity,
does what is right,
and speaks honestly with truth from the heart.
3 The one who doesn’t speak evil against others
or wrong his neighbor,
or slander his friends.
4 The one who loathes the loathsome,
honors those who fear the Eternal,
And keeps all promises no matter the cost.
5 The one who does not lend money with gain in mind
and cannot be bought to harm an innocent name.
If you live this way, you will not be shaken
and will live together with the Lord.
If you live this way, you will not be shaken and will live together with the Lord. – Psalm 15:5b (The Voice)
Together with the Lord
Some people think, in order to get to heaven, you have to live a certain way – and you really only get to experience heaven after this lifetime. Others prefer the imagery that heaven is right here with us, now, already, all around us, and we should live like we’re already there. Some say certain people will get to heaven, wherever that may be, while others contend since God is love, we’ll all end up there. So, where is heaven? And who gets to go there? What is the way? To be with God, do I need a passport to the Swiss Alps? Tibet? The Grand Canyon? Israel?
Does heaven require doing something, or simply a way of being?
The answer to this question is important because it has to do with family. Once this life is over and done, will our family still be together? Will we recognize each other? Fortunately for me, I’m not the first to pose this question. David, the poet king, who was called by God to shepherd the people of Israel, was curious as well. Somewhere along the way, he discovered an answer, one that still has merit in 2016: integrate what you believe into how you live; do the right thing, even when no one’s looking; tell the truth, but be kind… Kids know this stuff; this is basically life advice from a kindergartner. So why is it so hard for us to do?
This psalm often reminds me of another, Psalm 24:
1 The earth and all that’s upon it belong to the Eternal.
The world is His, with every living creature on it.
2 With seas as foundations and rivers as boundaries,
He shaped the continents, fashioned the earth.
3 Who can possibly ascend the mountain of the Eternal?
Who can stand before Him in sacred spaces?
4 Only those whose hands have been washed and hearts made pure,
men and women who are not given to lies or deception.
5 The Eternal will stand close to them with blessing and mercy at hand,
and the God who redeems will right what has been wrong.
6 These are the people who chase after Him;
[like Jacob, they look for the face of God].
Both psalms lift up truth and honesty as qualities God desires, both reference the heart, and both speak of mountains. Maybe this underscores the prophetic idea that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), that being together with God is a matter of holy reverence and deep regard which requires each of us continually to examine our motivations and remind ourselves how God invites us to live now, whether we’re pursuing ‘heaven on earth’ or ‘heaven after earth.’ It’s an inward journey as much as it is and outward pursuit.
Take blank piece of paper and some colorful writing instruments (crayon, pen, or magic marker will work). As a family, compare and contrast Psalms 15 and 24. Can you find other commonalities, implicit or explicit? On your blank paper, create a mind map (https://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/) beginning with one or two words you found. Talk together about the importance of faith in cultivating these spiritual attitudes.
Questions to Inspire Conversation
-How can we make heaven a reality in a world of political campaigning? Religious pluralism? Social, racial, economic, gender inequality? Targeted and mass shootings?
-How did Jesus’ life reflect his own wrestling with the question of dwelling with the divine?
-To sum it up: in your own words, what does it mean to live together with God?
Lord, help us live together with you,
having clean hands and pure minds.
Put our hands to good use praising you
in our daily living. Teach us justice,
that we may overflow with kindness.
Thank you for the future hope of glory.
May we make it a present reality. Amen.