|Image by Paxson Woelber|
I will offer in God's tent shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left,
and your descendants will possess the nations
and will settle the desolate towns.
And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred,
and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought God's
offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service.
For me, at work in my studio,
where I scratch and scrawl and loop
letters into shapes so I can enter the Tabernacle
of their bodies and hear each foot, each syllable
sending its roots to a depth as great as that tree’s,
which has been standing and rooting and swaying
long before I came to memorize its plain mystery,
its wide-bodied hull open to stars at night,
each a point that I lengthen into a letter
and each letter into a word, and with the words
build a Tabernacle for the ten most broken
and the ten most resonant words. I will place them
in an inner sanctum enclosed by hanging carpets,
and outside it, another space enclosed by carpets,
and outside it, another, so that those who wish
to read the words, to say them out loud,
must first pull one curtain back and step inside,
and then another, and another until they arrive
in a hushed space, a soundproofed, heavy quiet
where they come to know that which makes all things
day after day,
and out of which the earth was made.
- from "Tabernacle" by Emily Warn
Verse for the Day
Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
|Image by Paxson Woelber|
The art of making a tent is one of the most ancient practices of the biblical story. When the Israelites were on the move, they traveled with the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy of holies, and each place that they settled, they raised a tent around it - the Tent of Meeting. But tents were also places of dwelling. The skill of tent making involves continuously patching and extending an existing tent, repairing and adjusting for family sizes. Made of coarse goat hair, and strengthened and partitioned inside with curtains, carpets and canopies, tents were passed down from father to son, along with the skill of weaving new hair in patches to prolong use. When Isaiah encourages the Israelites to widen their tents — this is what he means. By expanding a tent, there is always room for more to gather, and more space also for God to dwell. Poet Emily Warn uses some of these images in her poem. She compares the words of Scripture to a tree that sinks deep into the earth and upward to the stars, surrounded in her imagination with the Old Testament Tent of Meeting. While images of an expansive, worshipful tent are powerful, sometimes the sacred space of communion with God also occurred in Scripture in small tent spaces. In the book of Exodus, for instance, Moses had his own tent -- away from the Tent of Meeting or other tents, so that he could better hear God. Nowadays, we might find the same kind of closeness to God in a tent on a summer's night. As you listen to the fire and experience the sounds of outdoors, take a moment to rest in creation. How is God present with you in this place of rest? What feels sacred? When the Israelites were on the move again, they carried with them that sense of sacred space. How can you carry this time of sacred quiet forward in your day?
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