Project Canterbury

God With Us:
The Meaning of the Tabernacle

by Frank Weston, D.D.
Bishop of Zanzibar

[London and Milwaukee: Mowbray and Morehouse, 1920. 135pp]
pp 86-93

transcribed by Mr. Alexander van Ness Munoz
AD 2000


WITH the title of this chapter as our text, let us go still a little further in our study of the tabernacle.

i. When I pray to God it is with the faithful conviction that He listens to me ; that, so far as I am concerned. He is able to attend to me just as if I were the only one praying at the moment. Of course I know that millions are praying, here and beyond the veil, but, in my spiritual experience, God's method of meeting me is such as to suggest that He is attending to me with His whole Being. The Father accommodates Himself to my human ways of thought.

At other times I know myself one of a vast congregation, one small voice in a mighty chorus; yet, I am sure. He notices me and my offering.

On the other hand, when I do not pray, my conscience smites me because my heavenly Father has, as we put it, missed something He had the right to expect. It smites me for not giving Him what, translated into human words, He was waiting for.

A little reflection shows me that these childlike conceptions are based on a true idea of our relation with God. For God is Love. Now love calls to love, and suffers when no response is made. All that we know of human love certifies us that unless in God there be something that corresponds with human disappointment, then God is not our Creator, nor are we in His likeness. We believe that our true end is complete union with God, our love swallowed up in Divine Love, our whole personality surrendered to the magnetic attractiveness of Love Eternal. So that our earthly prayer-times are symbolic rehearsals of the final union, when God's love shall be so apprehended that man's responsive love can satisfy His fatherly claim. Love calls and love responds. Does Love never wait for that response? Is Love never baffled in His search? Has Love no sense of being forgotten or rejected?

The Incarnate Word is the living symbol, the efficacious sign, the complete expression of Love that seeks, desires, is baffled, forgotten, and rejected before it wins. The sorrow of Calvary is God's sorrow, as the joy of heaven is God's joy. Is it incredible that God's waiting love has its proper expressions, signs, and symbols in our midst? Is it incredible that He has made for us meeting-places where Love is revealed waiting for love and receiving love for love?

We know it is quite credible. Such meeting-places exist. At his mother's knee, before his crucifix, over the Bible man thus meets God. The Love that waits is, in a sense, locally expressed to us. And we certainly meet Him locally and make our response. There is a created link between two spiritual loves God's and ours. Supremely is this true of our act of communion when, in Jesus, God's love and ours are made one by His giving and by our reception and response. Just such a meeting-place is the tabernacle. It is in the same class, as regards the notion of a created link between Love and love. No doubt in degree it stands next after communion itself; but in Him it is not so different from the others that we cannot see a common meaning.

Man does not give love to Love without a meeting-place. The spot most full of the Lord Jesus is most really present. And therefore the tabernacle is, after the altar, the spot most to be desired. Before the tabernacle, with his Gospels, a Christian is of all men the richest in opportunity of love.

And it will be seen that all this follows on the Incarnation of God Himself. Christ's manhood is the essential, created link between God's love and ours. And the other links we have mentioned take all their meaning from the Incarnate Word. And, as truly, the same principle governed God's dealings with His chosen people in preparation for Christ's coming.

If, then, we are truly honest we shall regard other men's choices of their favourite meeting-places with great tolerance. Since we all differ, the one from the other, in temperament, mental power, training, and spiritual experience, it is most unlikely that we shall all agree in the values we assign to these various links. And, therefore, in the exact measure of our Christ-like love of souls will be our tolerance of other men's ways of prayer and worship. While we all agree that the corporate worship of the Church must be common to all, there is no reason why private devotion should not be as various as spiritual experience is various. And I feel sure that if people will only- trust one another a little more the English Church can learn to understand why some of us value devotion at the tabernacle, and why we will no more allow the Blessed Sacrament to be locked away than we will allow all Bibles to be forbidden between the reading of the Church's offices.

Would the party that claims the title of Evangelical agree to that? Why, then, must we allow the same treatment of the sacrament? After all, the sacrament is a more real presence of Jesus even than the Bible. It is, in fact, Jesus, the Author of the Bible.

2. But these child-like thoughts will take us still further. Is it incredible that God's one great redemptive idea is still represented on earth as of old it was worked out visibly in our midst? Our lives are not so lived as to make such a notion easily intelligible: there is very little of the child about the modern Church.

Yet may it not be a true notion, had we but imagination and a child's vision? The redemptive idea is presented to us in Incarnation, in thirty years at Nazareth, in ministry, in passion, at Calvary, in resurrection, and ascension. These seven notions were adequate to express humanly the Divine Love. Are they, or are they not, still expressed among us?

The Incarnation is even now daily extended before our eyes in the growing Church and its sacramental life. Christ's life as Son and Carpenter is reproduced in all who seek to redeem domestic, social, and commercial life to God's love in other words, the Church in the world is Christ's body still on earth. The ministry is represented in all that consecrates the common life of brotherhood and mutual service; it is Christ's ministry in the Holy Ghost within the brotherhood, and without it, for God's dear sake. The passion is reinacted by Christ in all who suffer. Calvary is God's altar, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, with rich fruit of patient endurance, gathered by the Christ day by day in a sorrow-stricken world. And the resurrection is made visible in the Church's victory over sin, sorrow, and Satan, as in every Christian death with its victory over the grave.

Thus does the mystical body grow, from day to day, in its capacity for expressing Christ, passing with Him through His own experiences, and revealing what He Himself really is, and what in Him was once made manifest on earth.

Is this all mere fancy? Is it not for this we were created, and are and hereafter shall be in God's glory? Indeed, there is no past or future with God. He is, and He is revealed. To us there is past and future. But we shall not understand His ways if we do not see them as unity—God; God in manhood, Christ; and Christ in mankind, the Church—these Three are a Unity.

The redemptive idea, that idea Incarnate and the same idea expressed in the redeemed human race—these three are one. God is all in all, in spite of rebellion. Dismiss from your mind the thought of hostile wills: all else is God. All else is God as Godhead, or God as Man, or God as expressed in mankind. And unless we can trace the Christ-life in the Church-life in essential idea, if not in victorious actuality, we are not yet child-like, we do not yet sec the kingdom of God here and now.

But what of the Ascension? Have we not omitted it from our count? Yes, and that purposely. For Christ's ascension cannot be expressed on earth by earthly Christians. The saints in heaven reproduce that in the divine idea which ascension symbolizes. Christ in His saints alone does that. But on earth who is there who has ascended into heaven? Only the Son of Man, who is in heaven. Yes, it is He, the Christ, as Head of the Church, High Priest, and Royal Bridegroom, mystically moving with His people, external to them yet one with them. He is still the earthly expression of ascension.

And is that the nearest we can get to earthly expression? No; clearly not. There remains one expression of Him in which He is found as our Head, our Bridegroom, and our King, in which is contained the pledge and the power of closest union with our ascended King, in which already the lower creation has found its way of unification in the creative Word: it is the ascended Christ, revealed under forms of bread and wine, it is the Blessed Sacrament.

To the worldly-wise foolishness, to the narrow-minded popery, this conception speaks to us of the gracious gift of Eternal Love.

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