Solomon is wise enough to know that the house of prayer receives blessing only when it opens itself and welcomes the “foreigner” and outsiders from “a distant land.” For Israel, this is never easy, since neighboring kingdoms threaten its sovereignty. Fearing invasion doesn’t encourage a climate of hospitality. Still, hospitality remains a promise and a spiritual mandate.
When we let people into our homes, they can get messy. The only way to stay spick-and-span is to live in a bubble. Yet as soon as we welcome others, we welcome all that comes with them. I once read of someone who said that even as she cleans her home left in shambles the day after a party, she remembers the joy of the night before shared with people she loves.
Our homes may be our castles, but unless we welcome the stranger, they remain museums gathering dust. The image of a mansion turned into a museum comes to mind—a place where rooms are roped off and for viewing at a distance only, lest priceless heirlooms are damaged. Do we want to live in such “perfect” spaces? Today’s text reminds us that hospitality is part of our call as we seek to worship fully in God’s presence. Welcoming others into our homes and into our places of worship invites God into our midst as well. It is better to huddle together in a hut and share God’s joy with one another than to live in a pristine world alone.
God of welcome, bless the mess that comes with our togetherness; while we tidy up, teach us to pray. 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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