How Long Will We Procrastinate?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD Almighty said to Haggai, “These people say that this is not the right time to rebuild the Temple.” 3 The LORD then gave this message to the people through the prophet Haggai: 4 “My people, why should you be living in well-built houses while my Temple lies in ruins? 5 Don’t you see what is happening to you? 6 You have planted much grain, but have harvested very little. You have food to eat, but not enough to make you full. You have wine to drink, but not enough to get drunk on! You have clothing, but not enough to keep you warm. And workers cannot earn enough to live on. 7 Can’t you see why this has happened? 8 Now go up into the hills, get lumber, and rebuild the Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshiped as I should be. Haggai 1:2-8 GNT
412 May the fire of your love not be a will-o’-the-wisp, a vain fire, an illusion—an illusion of fire, which neither enkindles what it touches nor gives any heat.
As I look at the prophets words above, I wonder how many of us see the application in the life of the church today? Let me rephrase that, in our lives today.
The parallel is simple, and while they were talking about building a temple of stone and wood, the temple now is made of people, the living stones that
St. Peter talks about,
5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (TEV)
In building this temple, made of us and those we know, we have to stop procrastinating. We can’t use our age, our lack of knowledge or skill, our over-burdened schedules, or anything else as an excuse any longer.
But this won’t be done unless we realize what men like Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola, and Martin Luther realized, the wonder and splendour of what it means to walk with God, as He removes all the obstacles and the sin.
That is how God builds us up, smoothing out our edges, that which has been made rough by guilt and shame, by denial and bargaining. He is the one who places each “living stone”, He is the one who makes us all fit together.
My personal opinion is that even in back in Haggai’s day, the issue was helping people realize that this isn’t about duty, it isn’t about even fulfilling the mission of God. That is His responsibility, to get the work done. It is about seeing God’s desire, that all people come to Him, and about realizing the joy when one prodigal, or one sheep is brought home. It’s about seeing the sinner who realizes they are forgiven, and that they are welcome in church.
You see, this temple we witness God building in our midst, it is the greatest of temples – for it is the temple that will endure for eternity. Each person that comes to know Jesus, who comes to realize His love, who is united to Him in the water of Baptism, who receives His promise, this is the eternal temple, and we will dwell with Him forever.
We could talk about what they are saved from, but what they are delivered into, what is given them in this relationship with God, is incredible, and we get to be part of that temple, and part of its being built. Part of each victory of God over satan, sin and death.
We keep our eyes open, we pray, and we mention to people why we have hope in view of the broken, battered world. It doesn’t matter if they are in our age group, in our socio -economic bracket, whether we serve them, or they serve us, it doesn’t even matter if we can barely communicate because of language differences. It doesn’t even matter if they are of a different political party, or are fans of different sports teams!
We all need to know Jesus loves us…
It’s time to stop procrastination.. to share the one thing we treasure above all.. the love of God.
ANd then, we witness the wonder of the place God will dwell.. among us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1029-1031). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
God says, “I WILL BRING…” A Sermon/Homily on Isaiah 56
God says, “I WILL BRING…”
Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8
I pray that you realize the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ which has gathered you into His presence here and that you would realize you aren’t just invited to be here, God desires your presence here!
Doing Right and Good defined…
In the first verses of the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, we heard this morning that God wanted us to do this,
“Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you, and to display my righteousness among you. Blessed are all those who are careful to do this, Blessed are those who honor my sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong….”
That’s a great promise, but perhaps a bit vague. What is right and good to do, what is just and fair? We might have our own ideas, but God gives us a great picture of it in the verse that follows us,
“Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will never let me be a part of His people.”
This isn’t just God commanding us to do this, this work He asks us to do is revealed in the 6-8th verses as His action, as He blesses those who are committed to His care. He pours out the blessings upon them, even as He has on every single one of us.
And so what God is calling us to do is imitate Him, to share His heart towards people He has created, to have His heart and love all those He loves.
It’s not going to be easy… it is, in fact, it will cause us to take up our cross, this call to follow him.
Who are these outcast & foreigners?
This passage shows two groups of people God loves, foreigners and those who are called outcasts. Or as Deacon Bob is preaching about right now, those people who think they can’t be admitted to our club.
And we need to make sure they never, ever think this…. We can’t let them say, “The Lord will never let me be a part of HIS people!”
The first group is simple – they are people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our genes, or our language, or our culture, or economic or social status. Some translations use foreigner, some describe them as alien, some stranger. Given our church’s makeup, I think he’s talking about Australians because we have members from just about everywhere else! Guyana, Germany, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia, we even love people from places like Boston and Hemet! Yet the command is to make sure they don’t think and say that God won’t let them be part of us.
Some people still struggle to feel comfortable in our presence, and it is our role to help those who God brings here to know they are welcome, that they are part of His people, and therefore part of us.
God is calling us to proactively make sure they know they are welcome,
In verse 8, God adds in another group – those who are outcast.
Back in the days when Moses and Israel left Egypt and were wandering around the desert, hen the Old Covenant was given to the people of Israel, there were a number of sins that could be committed that would require the sinner to leave the camp of the people of God.
Sometimes it was for a day, sometimes it was for life.
Basically, until they served their time, they were outcast, they had to make do for themselves, they weren’t welcome among the people of God. They were the recognized sinners, or those that condoned the sin that was committed. They were the outcasts, the sinners rejected by their own people, who also rejected themselves. Never again would the joy be theirs, or so they thought.
Ever been there? Ever been in a situation where you weren’t in the in group, where you didn’t understand what was going on, or wonder whether you were part of the church?
Ever wonder if you were beyond God’s desire to forgive, beyond His mercy? Either because people treated you that way, or because you simply felt to guilty?
Ever treated people like they weren’t?
Or maybe, like me, you have been all of the above…
Time to hear God, time to make the foreigner and the outcast welcome..
Filling us with joy!
I want you to hear the gospel from the Old Testament again,
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8 For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.” Isaiah 56:6-8 (NLT)
These promises aren’t just basic entry, by saying that God will accept their offerings, because God is hearing their pray- the prayer of all people, he’s talking about full membership in this family.
Not half-sister, or step brother, but complete membership in the house of God….
For those who were once outcast, victims of their own sin, and who were once foreigners. They are family, because of the love of Jesus on the cross, the cross where we were all made family.
We need to understand, and we need to share with people – that Christ died for all. For you and for me, for people from every language, every tribe, ever culture. For people of every economic group and from every generation.
Jesus died for them all. Every person in Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Whittier.
All those who are different, all those who have sinned and belong somewhere besides a house of prayer.
Jesus changed all that, as Isaiah prophesied, as God unites us to him on the cross, cleansing us of the sin that could have prevented us from being here.
We need to know this, we need to understand that God died for us, that we might live, and we need to welcome all who would know this, that would come to adore the God who loves us all.
Which is why we have hope, no matter where we’ve come from, no matter what we’ve done wrong. HE can and will restore us! We have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us all.
How life is Built, or How a Temple is… the oft overlooked secret
devotional thought of the day:
7 The stone blocks for the building of The Temple were all dressed at the quarry so that the building site itself was reverently quiet—no noise from hammers and chisels and other iron tools. 1
2 “About this Temple you are building—what’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I’ll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. 13 I’ll personally take up my residence among the Israelites —I won’t desert my people Israel.” 14 Solomon built and completed The Temple. 1 Kings 6:7, 12-14 (MSG)
74 You are not happy because you make everything revolve around yourself as if you were always the centre: you have a stomach-ache, or you are tired, or they have said this or that… Have you ever tried thinking about Him, and through Him, about others? (1)
It is ithe plan of the Masterbuilder that all of the business of making rough rock into perfectly fitting, polished stone be accomplished in the stone quarry. There, beyond this place, beyond that door, is only the assembling of what has been done here. (2)
I have read of Solomon’s building of the temple many times, the dedication of that temple is one of m favorite portions of all of scripture. The gathering of God results in God’s presence being so manifest, that smoke fills the temple, and no priest can offer any sacrifice. The people of God pray, and are forgiven. Others come and pray, and God makes Himself real to them. God and people.
Yet in the midst of the work, verse 7 gets overlooked, it gets lost in the details, in the glory, in the imagery. I never even bothered to ask why the work was done in the quarry before.
Thinking on it now, as the son of a man who build tons of stone walls (literally) it amazes me. To so carve the rock as to be sure of its fitting, to so care for the work as it is transported to the temple mount, to then be fitted into place, perfectly. It is mindblowing to think of this with lasers and high power saws and polishers, but this work was done with chisels, and hammers, carved lovingly by hand. And in the temple, even as it is being build, reverent silence…It is built in peace, the joining mortar laid, the stones carefully put in place. Peace, quiet, solemnity.
No wonder the building of the temple of God in its fullness happens outside the walls, outside even the city, the noise of the hammers pounding not heard within its walls. The only noise to be heard there, the tear of a thick curtain….as the Holy of Holies is revealed without its glory. Without the ark, for that which fulfils the covenant, that glory is hanging, nailed to a tree. The Body given, the Blood poured out, the sins forgiven, forever. And peace reigns as the shadows come, and darkness falls…….
To often we don’t wait to get to the silence, to see the glory of God – to know His peace. We are too busy with our issues, with our ailments, with that which pounds and shapes us, Fr. Josemaia is right, we focus on the now, and we don’t see the temple being build, we don’t see God put each one of us in place.
We don’t see the plan, the beauty, the glory coming together because we choose to live back in the quarry, rather than to see where God has put us in His living temple. To trust Him at His word, at His promise. To realize that we aren’t in the quarry, really, Hear how Paul says it…
1 Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. 2 Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, 3 because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. 4 But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NJB)
Though we may think we are not finished yet, those who believe have in many ways left the quarry, and are sitting here, in the temple, just waiting for Christ to put us in place. That is where our life is, and we are encourage to see it that way. Our life, shaped and designed and lived out in Christ. We’ve taken some pounding – He has taken more for us. We are in His presence, in a place where the pounding has already been done. We have been delivered and saved… and my prayer for you, is that you realize this more and more, and live in the peace and serenity that is found in Christ. For be assured,
6 And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (TEV)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 531-534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer (devotions from Finian readings for April 5th
A Most Overlooked Blessing…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. 1 Kings 8:28-30 (NLT)
20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”John 20:20-23 (NLT)
If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB) 8
192 If ever you fall, my son, go quickly to Confession and seek spiritual guidance. Show your wound!, so that it gets properly healed and all possibility of infection is removed, even if doing this hurts you as much as having an operation. (1)
It is one of the major events in the history of Israel. it is right up there with the events at Mount Sinai, and the walk through the Red Sea.
As one of the wonders of the Ancient World was dedicated to God’s glory, the thing that the king prays for… is… forgiveness?
Really? Not to dominate the world? Not to have all his people become wealthy and successful, not for the kids to all be brilliant and well behaved… but blessed?
That’s the key to the Temple?
A Jesus appears before them in the upper room, after assuring them that there is peace – the very first thing He does there, is bestow on them the responsibility of fogiving (and retaining) sins. Even as He breaths His spirit on them, this incredible ministry becomes theirs…this ministry of reconciliation, this ministry of forgiveness.
Forgiveness again? Really – that’s the first thing Jesus wants them to know they have the power to do – as His apostles?
It’s still a amjor issue with John when he rights his first epistle – an epistle devoted to love. Because I tell you something – you can’t love others, if you don’t know the forgiveness of God in your own life. if you don’t know you are forgiven and cleansed, if you don’t get that God isn’t out to “get you” and “condemn you” for those sins, but would so much rather clanse you and bring healing into your life – you won’t get life. You will live defensively, your cynicism will rule over you, and anxiety will so cause you to defend yourself, that you won’t see the people you are called to love – much less be able to love them.
Forgiveness. God’s forgiveness. Complete, cleansing, healing, redeeming, reconciling, restoring…
I need it, you need it, we need to hear that we are forgiven, that God will make all things work for good, that everything is okay.
Years ago, there would be lines of people at Lutheran Churches, at Catholic Churches, waiting for private confession at mourning benches in Methodist and Holiness churches, people seeking the freedom of knowing their sin was forgiven, that they were purged of all unrighteousness, of all unholiness. That God kep His promises. That’s what happened at the dedication of the Temple, it’s what the Tabernacle celebrated, it’s the story of the upper room – both on the night before He was betrayed, and on the night He appeared, wounds in His hands and side.
it is a blessing we need….
So as Josemarie is quoted above – even if it hurts to confess your sin – rush to those who are set apart to help you with this – to proclaim on God’s behalf that you are forgiven. Don’t let it rot your soul, your heart, your mind…. Rush, confess your sins – as James says in his epistle – to another… and hear that you are forgiven.
And know the depth of the love of God, is greater even than your sin……
God’s peace… for you were meant to live in it.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 866-868). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders….
Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:
18 “But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19 LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20 Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV)
32 “When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33 listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV)
658 We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)
Tomorrow we start a new year in the church. I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God. (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)
Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us. We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return. That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!
There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.
You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair. Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end, Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death. I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity. We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.
Something we already know… sort of.
And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.
Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.
Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)
Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God. All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love. That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.
For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary. It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That He is here. I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people. That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand. That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life. That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.
That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.
That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.
That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.
KNowing He is here.
Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face. That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.
In His presence.
So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow. Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high. For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.
The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.
Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession. Article XXIV (p. 56) . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
- An Impressive Resume (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (joshuareich.org)
My Name will Be There!
My Name will Be There!
1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43
In Jesus Name
May You realize the presence of God, in those places where He has placed His Holy Name, and in those places where you go, knowing He has given you His name!
What the church Is Dedicated to…
As I looked at the Old Testament reading, one of my favorites, I began to think of all the churches I’ve been at. From St. Francis in Lawrence Massachusetts, to St Joes in Salem, to the Crystal Cathedral, the church I went to when I moved to California, to churches I’ve pastored, to St Mary’s in Rome, and Mei Lin Christian Church in China, to little tiny chapels along the way, and monstrous auditoriums, there is something special about each of them.
It is how Solomon described the temple he had built at God’s direction. I love this part of the prayer Solomon spoke at the dedication:
“Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there!
His Name will be here…
For all peoples – for those who know Him, and those who do not…
Solomon’s prayer shows us how God would be there, where He put His name for both groups, as they gather and pray to Him.
In the very same way He shows us, that He will be there, where He has put His name for us, whether we know we are part of His family, or not.
The We know we are forgiven and healed
As I look at Solomon’s request, as I hear him plead with God for those who are part of God’s family, it seems interesting that what Solomon wants God to communicate to them is boiled down to one incredible word,
Hear Solomon’s words again.
30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
Of all the things Solomon could have said, what he did ask for, what God will agree to in chapter 9, is this idea of forgiveness. That whenever people came before God – the purpose was always about the forgiveness.
Which means, that is what they were asking for?!?
That’s how much they had come to value the relationship they had come to know with God – that which was on their mind most was… God, please let me know you still love me they cried, as we should. God please don’t abandon me, please don’t give up…please forgive me…
God puts His name there, so that we can run to Him, and know that He won’t reject us, that He will still be our God, and He will take care of the sin. That we don’t need to hide our sin, or make believe we don’t know it is sin,, or try to excuse it with excuses that didn’t work when we were kids….
But we come to our Lord, to the place where He put His name, and as He has always done, He will forgive us, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
That’s what we, His children, more than anyone else needs to realize. That when we come to Him, humbly and earnestly and ask Him for help – like every father in this room would run to help our kids, He will be there, more than just our knight in shining armor, our superhero,
He will be our God. He won’t turn us away, when we come….looking for grace and mercy….
We know that…we need to trust in Him for that, and give up doing those things we know we shouldn’t. We need to lean on Him to think, to say and yes to do the things that He’s told us are best for us,
And pray for forgiveness…and help when we struggle.
Knowing He’s always been faithful to this promise… is an incredible blessing.
That those outside the family – would know God is there for them as well
Solomon’s prayer just doesn’t leave off with those who are already part of God’s family, the people of Israel who are in a relationship with Him, God’s kin you might say. Hear again Solomon’s prayer for them,
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.
Solomon asks God to respond to those who aren’t even believers in Him! And He doesn’t change. What is even more amazing is that what they ask – Solomon prays God will act on, And here is God’s response, from the next chapter,
2 the LORD appeared to him again, as he had in Gibeon. 3 The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer. I consecrate this Temple which you have built as the place where I shall be worshiped forever. I will watch over it and protect it for all time. 1 Kings 9:2-3 (TEV)
Even in the days of Israel’s greatest glory, and before, this has been God’s plan – that all people on Earth would come to intimately know Him, and live reverently with Him.
That is why He had Solomon put the temple there, so that all people could gather and know Him, not just any one ethnicity, not just any one language group. A place where all would be welcome to pray to Him, to cry out to Him, and to be confident of His care, His love, and His hearing every one of our prayers.
This is why it is here…
Many people have many different reasons for building a temple or church. But God has a reason above all that. We aren’t here because we put our name in this place. We are here – whether person that has been part of God’s family, or the person who has never stepped foot in a church til this morning, who isn’t sure who God even is, because God has put His name here, it is here, like other places where He has done so, that we come to pray, believer and unbeliever alike, because He calls us here to do so… with the promise that He will listen.
If Solomon could see that in regards to this temple… how much more should we see it now… after the cross, after the splendor of Pentecost.
It is why we are here.
There is one more thing that we need to realize, that I think we forget. It is not just the building where God puts His name… it is on the people gathered in that place. Sometimes we forget that. But when someone is baptized – the Bible talks about God adopting them, about His giving them a new name, about them becoming God’s people. That’s why we make the sign of the cross – to remember we bear His name, on our minds, and on our hearts.
The temple of Solomon no longer stands, but the people of God, the ones upon whom He has given His name – the church is alive, here in Cerritos, and in Yucca Valley, and in Rome and in China…all over the world God has sent those who bear His name. We are loved, and we realize that more and more, not just listening to sermons, but in talking with God, in praying to Him.
As we who trust in His love and mercy realize He hasn’t given up on us yet, he still love and forgives. As those who come here, hearing from us about God’s love – come into His presence with us, and the Holy Spirit hears their prayers, and God acts. Indeed communicates with us, those who come to know and adore Him when He tells us of His love through His word, through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Hearing His voice, hearing Him tell of His commitment to us, we know something extraordinary.
We know, we find that we are at peace…resting assured of His love…knowing we are not alone, we are not going to be abandoned, but we will be loved until that day, when He gathers us home to be with Him.
The Pantheon, An Example of Redemption and Transformation and Vocation
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
A post on Facebook this morning brought memories of our trip (dare I say our pilgrimage) to Rome last year.
We were walking down a street – just trying to get a feeling for the city. An amazing city, and dare I say it had a sense of both home and holiness. It is hard to explain – but it was there, not just in the churches, but among the very streets. We came across this building from the back, obviously a place that was old and needing more restoration. As we rounded the front – it was the Pantheon – the incredible temple built for sacrifices to be offered to the pantheon of Roman Gods – its oculus – the hole in the center of the dome – even on an overcast day lit this ancient magnificent structure incredibly. The huge iron doors, amazing.
Yet what astounded me the most, this incredible building, built to worship false gods, built as a place to appease them, was transformed, sanctified, set apart centuries later to be a place of like transformation, a place to celebrate the Light pouring into lives.
What I never read of, what I never realized – is that this building is now a church – an active place where people are baptized, and transformed by the Love of God. A place where the Body and Blood of Christ is the only sacrifice that matters, the only one that could be used to redeem and revive and restore.
A place that was redeemed, that was set apart (sanctified) to be a place where redemption and sanctification of man occurs, because of the love of the One, True God, who does that which we cannot. He buys us back, He redeems us, He cleanses us, He sets us apart….for Him.
As I walked into the Pantheon, as I saw the altars, the paintings, the incredible dome, the oculus, a sense of awe overtook me – much different than the awe at the forum, or at Triumphant Arches, or looking at the wall, or even as we walked through the ruins of Pompeii. It wasn’t just a historical reminder of our past, of the culture we’ve lost.
It’s a place where faith is strengthened, where life in Christ begins, where redemption is seen and known.
A place where God has come.
A place where I have hope – for if God can transform such a place – I realize that I too can be transformed – and that I too can be a place where God dwells, where He abides, where with other believers, we form a temple not made with hands… and our sacrifice is not to die, but to live. Where as this building gains the identity of being a place of God, such is my vocation and life. Yours as well.
Such is the wonder of walking with Christ.
He makes all things – whether ancient temples dedicated to man’s glory, or men themselves…new.
May our lives praise Him, and may people glorify Him more as they see His work in and through us. AMEN