The Hope of the Church (Devotional)

Phyllis Nissila

While (Peter) yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him (Matthew 17:5, KJV).

Recently, I listened to the testimony of a former prisoner of war who described his experience of God’s presence during a long incarceration. At the worst times, he said, even as he lay crumpled on a dirty cell floor starved and beaten, scraps of scripture still surfaced through the fog in his brain. He clung to those few verses as if to life, repeating them over and over between lapses of consciousness.  That was enough, he said, for him to be able to shift his focus from hell to heaven; for him to sense the Lord’s presence even in that cold, cramped chamber. Those few verses were enough for him to maintain hope.

This story reminds me that the real “church” is believers not buildings, individuals not institutions. It reminds me that God is present in the midst of “two or more” as well as in multitudes. And He is present for one.

Having grown up in a denomination that teaches that God abides in man-made constructs and in the collective it took me some time to absorb this truth. But even though I understand it now, something in me as in everybody else still wants tangibles—symbols and shrines, crowds and splendor—like the tabernacles Peter, James and John wanted to erect on the mountain of Jesus’ transfiguration where they also saw Moses and Elias (verse 4).

Was this perhaps one of the reasons God, Himself, cloaked in that bright cloud, stepped down through a seam in the throne room to the top of a scrubby, nondescript mountaintop in the Jezreel Valley and spoke? Or was that a prelude to something of greater import?

The Architect of Architects, though clad in splendor, invited the disciples and invites us now, one by one, not to man-made memorials, elegant as they may be, but to the real “place” of redemption: Jesus, the only Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6), and God taught us how to respond: hear ye him.

In sanctuaries and solitude, cathedrals and prison cells, mansions and scrubby mountaintops we honor God by honoring His Son—and listening to His words, for “(The) words that I speak unto you,” says Jesus, “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Join me in the Word today?

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