Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5
The older you get, the more this passage speaks to us. As the years go on, we become more acutely aware of how temporary this earthly tent in which we live is.
It is interesting that Paul uses the metaphor of a tent to speak of things temporary and things eternal. He also speaks of being clothed and never being truly unclothed, even when naked, to further talk about this idea of the things in our lives that can be taken away or destroyed, worn down by old age, and those things that cannot ever be destroyed. Coming on the heels of the treasure stored in clay vessels, we might fall into the easy trap of many Greco-Roman, gnostic, religious ideas of the body as being a frail and inadequate trap for our souls. But rather Paul is not just speaking of the limitations of our human bodies, but of how big God is.
Remember in the days when the Israelites were first wandering in the Sinai wilderness, God called for them to meet in a tent. This was a God who was so overwhelming that you could not meet or see God’s face out in the open, otherwise you would face death, so their needed to be some place that mediated the meeting. And yet, this God of ours intended to remain with God’s people, not far away, at a mountaintop altar or temple, but in the middle of their lives. So a tent was set up as they camped. A beautiful and detailed tent, festooned with fine embroidery and gold, but a tent nonetheless, something that could easily come down, travel with the people, and be set up yet again. And though the people entered the tent to encounter God, God did not live in the tent. God only visited the tent, when God chose, not just because the people called God’s name. Our God cannot be tamed and certainly cannot be contained in even the fanciest tent.
This seems to be Paul’s point. The tent is not for God; the tent is for us. We cannot meet God without the tents, the very bodies God made. We cannot meet God without human language, through which we can hear the Word and words of God, and share our experiences of God with one another. Still, these human things, so necessary to our lives, created by God, simply cannot contain God. These human things break, change, and die, but God does not break or die or change. Even though the works we do in God’s name might not last forever, God is forever. We can trust in that.
Reflect: In what temporal things have you placed your trust? On what eternal things do you rely? How do you tell the difference?
Devotion from A Heart for Reconciliation by Megan Dosher Hansen and Michael Rinehart