United Church of Christ

Free Range God

When King David was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies, the King said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” - 2 Samuel 7:1-2 (NRSV)

I hate camping.

Camping is a thrifty way to vacation. It’s also a huge hassle: the complex packing and unpacking; the loud, drunk people at the adjacent campsite with the yappy dog; the mosquitos; the frightful bathrooms. I understand King David’s misgivings about God having to camp while David stays indoors.

David had just scored a decisive victory against the Philistines and marked his reign over both Judah and Israel by bringing the ark of God into Jerusalem. In a moment of rest, he finds himself thinking it odd that a mere mortal like himself lives in a grand post-and-beam cedar house, while the Almighty Master of the Universe dwells out back in a tent. God should have a temple, a big one!

Then the word of the Lord comes to David through the prophet Nathan, “I’ve lived in a tent since I brought your ancestors out of Egypt. I don’t want a house. I like the freedom and mobility that comes from camping!”

A house for God was eventually built anyway, a big one in the middle of Jerusalem. That might come as a relief for those who resist camping. It also says how uncomfortable we are with a free-range God. We prefer God to stay where we put Them, a God who affirms and mirrors our values, biases and preferences.

Prayer

Holy Camper, help me remember your address is everywhere. Today, let me see you there.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you identify as a camper, or a glamper, or a strictly indoors kind of person? How do you experience God, both indoors and outdoors?
  2. The author suggests that we are uncomfortable with a “free-range God.” What are the risks of a God who continually moves? What are the risks of a God who stays put?
ddauthormattlaney2014.pngAbout the Author
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now

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