David had done well. It would appear that he got his way in everything. He was successful in battle. He had power over other people’s lives. He could claim anyone he wished for a wife or concubine. He had become the ruler of two nations, Judah and Israel, and had chosen Jerusalem to be the new capital. He was clearly depicted as being ‘favored by God’. Yes, David had done well. He had come a long way from his days as the shepherd boy, whose daddy didn’t even consider him important enough to be invited to the anointing festival. David was powerful. He had subdued his enemies. He had roped in all the twelve tribes under his power. It was now time to rope in a wandering God.
When David put the idea to Nathan he was affirmed in his proposal. But Nathan, the prophet, had read God incorrectly. They were not on the same page about this matter. The message came back from God, that this idea should be halted. What kind of God had David, and Nathan and their ancestors known? Theirs was a wandering God, a nomad, a God who traveled with them on their life’s journey, and whose presence on this journey they clearly knew. Theirs was a God who was with them in the desert, and who made a way, a highway, where no way seemed possible. Theirs was a God of the promised land, both of the promise and its fulfillment. Their God was a living God, not a static temple God. Simply put, theirs was a God-to-go.
Is there a human tendency to control and enshrine God in special places, like temples and churches, and then consider them the holy and sacred places? How did we get from the wandering God we meet in today’s first reading, from Jesus of Nazareth the wandering preacher with nowhere to lay his head, to the idea that our God must be enshrined in ornate places? Perhaps, this gives us a sense of control, for we can open and close the doors of these establishments at our convenient times and to whomever we will. Meanwhile, God has escaped the shrine, and can be found dancing down the highways and the byways, laughing in the main streets and the back streets, taking up residence in the human heart. This same God can be found in every blade of grass, under every stone, in the song of the bird and the lowing of the cow.
We have heard the call this Advent to build the highway for and with our God. Our God is out there traveling with us in the desert and by the refreshing waters. As we celebrate Christmas we see the point made again. When God touched into our humanity in the birth of Jesus, remember the baby’s mother was also in transit. This was the only fitting way that a traveling God could be born into our lives. Today, I know that God is traveling with a family facing eviction before Christmas. That God is roaming through the debris of people’s lives in Peshawar, Pakistan, and becomes tangible and visible in the support, concern and love that each of us can give. Yes, we have a God-to-go who takes us along the journey to be the visible presence of the divine.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP