11 July 2021
II Sam.6.1-5, 12b-19
Ps. 85.8-13; Mk.6.14-29
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122.1


The Old Testament reading from second Samuel sounds like something out of the Indiana Jones movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark!” Imagine this massive procession of worshippers who had recently recovered the Ark of the Covenant that had been stolen by their enemies. There were tambourines jingling, cymbals clanging, bells tolling, camels snorting, harps and lyres playing, horns blowing, and singing and dancing, as they were transporting the newly recovered ark to Jerusalem!

We don’t know exactly what the music sounded like but we do know the lyrics to one of the tunes – it can be found in Psalm 132: vv.6-9:


The ark! We heard it was in Ephrathah;

we found it in the fields of Jearim

Let us go to God’s dwelling place;

Let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.

Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place,

You and the ark of your strength.

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness;

Let your faithful people sing with joy.


The Ark of the Covenant, was a large chest made of fine wood and covered with Gold. On top was the lid that had two angels one on each end facing each other with the space in between the throne of the God who could not be named. There were two wooden poles also covered in gold that slid through loops made of gold that enabled the ark to be carried.

Inside the ark were the two tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments as well as a pot of manna (angel’s food given by God during the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness), and Aaron’s rod, a wooden staff with supernatural powers that was carried by Aaron who accompanied Moses during the plagues and exodus from Egypt. The rod had miraculously budded and bloomed by the power of God. They transported the ark to Jerusalem, where David had pitched a special tent – a temporary holy place until a temple could be built. This would be the place where the presence of God on earth dwelt. After the extended period of separation from the ark and the Divine Presence, the people were all reunited with one another and with God!

As many have been separated from the holy place of St. Luke’s and in-person worship we have had more time for reflection, and perhaps you have asked yourself the question, ‘What do you really get out of coming to church?’ Well – how about:

Bells tolling, organ preludes, the words of Holy Scripture, an inspiring sermon, forgiveness of our sins, passing the peace among friends old and new, celebrating of birthdays, rejoicing with an expectant mother and father as they anticipate the birth of their daughter, prayers for healing for a person who was sick and came to the altar, a sublimely beautiful choir anthem, Holy Communion where both the bread and the wine were taken, blessed, broken and shared, familiar and stirring hymns, and that invisible but viscerally tangible presence of the Holy Spirit – and all that was just from last Sunday!

Now, it really is true that we can worship when we are out in nature by appreciating and taking in God’s awesome creation, we can worship quietly at home, especially now that our services are live-streamed. But when we make the effort to come to a holy and special place that has been set apart for the sole purpose of worshipping God, something happens there that doesn’t really happen anywhere else.

I love what a parishioner recently told me, “After I get home from Church I know where I have been, I know that I haven’t been to a theatre, a shopping mall, or a coffee shop, and I can feel something in my body, something has grown within me.” On their first time back for in-person worship another person said they knew that although they had missed church over the past year, they weren’t prepared for the emotional reaction they had – from the first notes of a well-loved hymn the tears began to flow. One person who’s not known for emotional displays recently told me that they were very aware that coming back to church will be a big deal for them to the point they don’t think they could make it through a service without bursting into tears! TO that person I would say ‘you come on, no one will judge you here – and we will rejoice with you!’

There is something you can’t find anywhere else but the church – the holy place of God.

Finally, I’ll close with a story I once heard about a pastoral visit to a parishioner’s home:

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.

As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a doornail.”

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”


Psalm 122.1

Art Credit: “David Dancing” by Richard McBee