I have just had a wonderful few days breathing in the fresh, late summer air of fabulous Port Ban Caravan Park, drinking in yet another of the persistently best sunsets in Scotland beyond the Jura skyline, and reflecting on chapter 1 of The Turning Scotland.
Over the last two weeks, I have also been breathing in the fresh air of the Bible in a special way.
I love the Bible. It keeps me right every time I turn to it. The scriptures are always there to keep all of us right. We so easily wander off into the woods of popular trend and fashionable world-view, but every so often the Bible calls us back to clear thinking and spiritual balance.
One imbalance of recent times has been an over-extension of God’s unconditional love, stretching it to the idea that God loves everything and everyone just the same, to the point of sterilising Him of divine preference.
But look at what I came across again in the Psalms just last week!
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. (Psalm 87:2-3)
Can it be possible that God loves some of His own dwelling places more than others? Well, apparently there is <i>one</i> place that He does love more than the rest!
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.
What is it about the gates of Zion that make them so special to the Lord?
The gates of Zion were the point of entry to, and of going out from, the city of God, Jerusalem. Zion was a place where the tribal identity of smaller groups became submerged in a much more glorious collective.
As they climbed the hill of the Lord, they ascended to a physical and spiritual elevation that belonged to one Name above all others, the Lord Himself, as they left their own lesser territories behind them. They were now united in one place of commanded blessing that stood higher and shone brighter than anywhere else on earth.
At the recent launch of The Turning Scotland, I delighted day after day to lose my own tribal identity in something much greater than a 2020-Vision-For-My-Church (much though all our churches ought to pursue a strong local purpose).
As I reflected on Psalm 87 during one of our evening encounter meetings, and thought about the Lord loving the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob, and as I looked around me at my brothers and sisters from numerous other allotments around the city of Glasgow and beyond, I could almost hear the Lord Himself breathing into me, I prefer this to your church. I smiled and breathed back, in that case, so do I!
Now, that’s what I call fresh air.