Jesus’ forbears had an ambivalent relationship with temples and houses of worship. On the one hand, the human impulse to “contain” God led to shrines and tabernacles on a grand scale. On the other hand, as King David was to find out, God challenged the very notion of permanent sanctuaries: “Did I ever ask you for a temple? From the beginning, I have lived in tents as my people have wandered” (2 Sam. 7:6-7, ap). Because of his vanity, David never sees the Temple. It was left to Solomon as an engineering feat. Today we read Solomon’s prayer of dedication.
The great mystery of God’s presence is that even though the “highest heaven cannot contain” God, this very God chooses to stoop down and “dwell on the earth.” The One who is great becomes small and makes a home in a “down-to-earth” dwelling.
Even so, nothing made by human hands is permanent. God’s presence is always hidden in things that are transitory. The saying “this too shall pass away” applies to all our temples and monuments. The only remnant of Solomon’s great Temple complex is the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
My home church burned to the ground in January 2009. Because the congregation had already dwindled in size and shared a pastor with a nearby church, the members decided not to rebuild. Instead, they donated the insurance money to a variety of missions. All that remains on the site is a small memorial of park benches, a garden, and the relic of the bell tower. And yet, like the faith of the ancestors of Solomon’s Temple, the church’s ministry lives on through those who carry out God’s work in the world.
God of hosts, you alone have been our dwelling place through all generations. Hide us in the shelter of your tent until the day we see you face-to-face. Amen.
God had prevented David from building a temple in Jerusalem but then permitted David’s son, Solomon, to build it. In First Kings, Solomon places the ark of the covenant in the holiest place, and God’s presence descends. The psalmist rejoices in the Temple and would rather be in its courts than anywhere else because that is where God dwells. The New Testament readings remind us that the people of God have always met with resistance. The author of Ephesians compares living the Christian life to going into battle, so we must be prepared. Jesus also meets with resistance in John. His teachings are too hard for many to accept, so they abandon him. When we face resistance, therefore, we should not be surprised; but we are also not alone.
• Read 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43. How does your faith inform your sense of hospitality to friends and strangers?
• Read Psalm 84. Is your joy in the Lord? How does your relationship with God help you through times of sorrow?
• Read Ephesians 6:10-20. How do truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God’s word help you live boldly as an ambassador of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
• Read John 6:56-69. God came to us in a messy human body. How does your embodiment help you understand what it means to abide in Christ?
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