I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?* – King David, King of Israel
“Ancient Egyptians viewed their pharaohs as living gods they were the personification of AMUN-RA the king of gods and when they died they became true gods. Therefore these pharaohs weren’t only regarded as the kings of Egypt but as divinity.”
The king in the ancient world was the person you went to with all of your problems, the king had all the answers. In fact, on some ancient BC archaeological scrolls, something simlar to these words were found “The king is the representative of the Gods who has come down to show us how to be.” The king was God in effect. The king was a direct representative of the ontological spirit that culture looked to. People would worship the king. They would give their lives to the king. The king was the rockstar who had all the fame. The king was the one in power.
They had all the answers.
So, what happens when the king defers to someone/something else? They not only deny their power, they deny their ontological influence. They divorce themselves from being the one who has all the answers. For all intense purposes, they stop being who others think them to be. David denies his status and defers it elsewhere. This is a very self-deprecating move for a king, this is a sort of castration.
David chooses castration rather than power.
He chooses a state of non-status rather than those things that might seem to give him importance in the sight of others. What are we choosing that gives us status? Are we at least deferring them? For David, God is the ontological end. God is the true King. The ultimate monarchy doesn’t lie in what we see, but it suspends itself in the unseen. For David, it is in the unseen or in the uknown where true (post-colonial**) power resides.
We tend to look to things in our history as a church for influence on what we should do and where we should go, we tend to look to what we know rather than what we don’t? Why, because we have believed the perverse lie that somehow knowledge equals power. To David, there is power in the uknowning.
In the unraveling.
In the dismantling journey towards unbelief.
Where unbelief is true belief.
David takes it too far. By focusing outside the temple and outside of the mountain, the very foundation of the temple, David is basically condemning these things as useless.
Much like Jesus did when he spoke to the institutional representatives and told them they were dead inside. David is challenging us to see that the foundation of the institutions are the issue.
For some, I get this might be a bit outside of where you might be, and don’t want to minimize the struggle of attempting to fully divorce ourselves from the noise of structuralism into the quiet of post-structuralism. It isn’t an easy journey, I realize that, but it is one we can take together and to come to realize that the God we seek doesn’t just simply lie outside of the institution, but also resides outside of the foundations of our institution.
When David utters the words up above and looks toward the mountains, it isn’t just a declaration of nature or the natural order of things, the temple is what sat on that mountain. Centered in the ancient Eastern Levant religions was the belief that you could meet with the Divine in tents (Genesis 18), trees, and mountains to name a few spaces. They wanted to define their experience of meeting with God, so they created an institution, they created a structure.
We as people, tend to want to define or give some sort of structure to our experience, so we try to explain in it words, in language, which is itself – a structure. We have also been fed the lie that we need to instiutionalize everything that has value. David, a king, the ultimate expression of institutionalization denies the need for institution. In fact, he looks beyond it.
He looks outside of it.
He looks to what isn’t and can’t be institutionalized to express what is beyond words. David doesn’t just challenge the temple that would have been on this mountain, he challenges the mountain itself. The very foundation of the institution. David essentially says that everything of value doesn’t lie in our history, or what is laid-down before us, but is outside of what has been laid for us. It doesn’t cheapen what has been, it does encourage us to come together and dream outside of the contingencies we’ve been led to believe should be ours. The Church is in an interesting place, because for years, it has been set on a mountain, on a foundation of historical colonialism. In fact, the English language has been part of this structured ‘advance of the Kingdom’.
Structures have been the problem.
Now, we are beginning to ask important questions about the future of the de-institutionalized body of believers and what our future home will look like.
Which I think is a great question!!
I think for me, it won’t include walls, but where the walls used to be, there will be people. Where injustice used to be present in the name of God, now there will be love and renewal. Where liturgies, worship songs, and bibles used to be there will be people who are now the liturgy, the worship song and the bible. The Church has a lot of room to grow when we realize that the Church wasn’t meant for us.
* Psalm 121 is by far my favorite Psalm.
** David more like would have thought of power in a colonial sense, so I wanted to share that I am thinking of power in terms of the post-sovereign, post-colonial sense.