Psalm 84 - How lovely is your dwelling place

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Psalm 84, NRSV
Proper 16, Year B, Sunday between August 21 and August 27
Proper 25, Year B, verses 1-7, Sunday between October 23 and October 29

Do you have a dream house? Have you imagined where it is, on a lake, at the shore, overlooking Central Park? Or how it's laid out, furnished, and what amenities it has? I'll bet that, whatever your dream house is like, it is lovely.

Beauty, while everyone likes it, is not always appreciated as a virtue. We know from scripture that beauty, like all the things of this world, is fleeting. Beauty is not quite the same as truth or morality, and beauty can deceive.

Yet beauty is, well, beautiful. It nourishes the spirit and soul. If it is in the service of worship, or fellowship, it helps us feel better and be better.

The Temple in Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the Lord, was built to be impressive, with massive stones and cedars and finely crafted bronze, silver, and gold. Pilgrims to the Holy City would see it gleaming, and ascend the mount singing psalms and anticipating entry into the courts of the Lord.

Perhaps you have felt something like this when you approach your church, synagogue, masjid, or other holy place. I have felt this longing, and experienced the loveliness, in houses of worship large and small, majestic and humble. I have also been unmoved in places that most would say were quite beautiful.

In the psalm, the loveliness of God's house is linked to the faithfulness of God. "Happy are those who live in your house," because God hears prayers, and the Lord does not withhold any good thing from God-fearers and God-followers. The psalm even recognizes the sparrows and swallows that find their homes in the Lord's house. What a wonderful image of a welcoming home.

When things are going well, they are good indeed, water in a dry land, from strength to strength. But even when things are not going so well, what confidence there is, what hope, in God's goodness and in the spiritual power of worship in the community gathered in God's house. A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. This image of finding a home in God is familiar (23rd Psalm). Finding a God who makes a home for her people is precious. Happy, O Lord, is everyone who trusts in you.

Peder Mork Monsted, In the Garden
. James Tissot. Reconstruction of the Temple of Herod Southeast Corner, 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum.


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