2 Samuel 7: 27  “For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house”; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.”

When I was at university in the 1980s – that terrifying phenomenon, a teenage new Christian – there was a poster which most members of the Christian Union had: “the Church is what you have left when the building has burned down”. My mum just didn’t get it; she thought it was irresponsible.

Of course recently we’ve all been forced to think about “being church” rather than “going to church”.

I was struck by this verse from 2 Samuel when I was looking through the readings set for this week. It illustrates beautifully the relationship between that great flawed character David and God.

David wants to build God a house….in the end God says to him, no, your son Solomon will do that. Is it because David isn’t good enough? Well no-one is good enough (and in spite of David’s flaws, throughout the Old Testament histories he is the one king who is consistently referred to as the one who loved God).

Does God need a house? No. Solomon consecrates the Temple with the words, “the heaven of heavens cannot contain our God. How much less this house that I have built!”

In Hebrew the word “house” (bayit) has the same double meaning as it does in English, meaning people (“the house of Tudor”) as well as an actual building. David wants to build God a house….but God has built a house for him. Not a building, but a people and a promise, both to last for ever.

We love our church buildings. I went into All Saints, Coleshill on Thursday to rehearse a wedding and was dreadfully excited just to be in God’s house again! But we were there because this was going to be the next stage for some of the people of God, the founding of their family, their house.

Maybe God doesn’t need a house. But it feels as if we still need to build one for him. We do this with love and commitment – the new lighting scheme at St Mary’s is beautiful – and we long for the day when we return. But the Church really is what’s left when the building burns down. St Mary’s has stood for centuries. We have only three score years and ten (and as my dad used to say “plus the interest if you’re lucky”) but ironically, we’re the house that has the promise forever.

(I’ll still be glad to be back…..)