1 Kings 5:1-5
5Now King Hiram of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father; for Hiram had always been a friend to David. 2Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying,3‘You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet.4But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5So I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to my father David, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.”
It’s Reformation Sunday today - - not something we’re going to talk about too much, but I thought I’d start by acknowledging it, acknowledging that important historic reform, change, transformation. I wonder if the people of Wittenberg uttered those seven great words of the church when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church. “We’ve never done it that way before.”
It’s always a risk, suggesting or trying something new. It was a huge risk for Martin Luther. It was a risk for King David to suggest it, and it was a risk King Solomon to actually do it, but they were risks that someone needed to take. The world had changed, and “the way they had always done it” wasn’t going to work anymore.
David recognized that the needs of the people of God were changing. He was the first king to unite the twelve tribes of Israel into one kingdom. Gone were the days of wandering in the desert from Sinai to the Promised Land. Gone were the days of the nomadic tribes wandering around their new-to-them homeland, bumping into and fighting with its current occupants. Gone were the days of temporary judges, leaders who God raised up to help deal with individual conflicts. The people of God had a king and a nation, a holy city, a place to focus their worshiping attention. The world had changed dramatically, and David recognized that they way ministry and worship would reach people in their changing world would have to change, too.
God had a few more things for David to do, a few more battles to fight, a few more uprisings to put down, but when David’s son, Solomon, came to the throne, it was time for a temple. It was time for a ministry transformation.
A member of the team talked about the changing world in which we live. The following video was shown.
1 Kings 8:27-30
27 ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there”, that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place. 30Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray towards this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling-place; heed and forgive.
Solomon wisely recognizes that change isn’t needed so that God will be carefully boxed in. Neither the Tabernacle of old or the coming new Temple were meant to keep God away from the people. The temple was needed not because Israel need to protect God’s presence in the world, guard it, tuck it away from everyone, but so that God’s name could be known, so God’s people could do the ministry they had been formed to do, so they could worship and welcome others to worship with them, too. The temple wasn’t built to hold God away from the world or set in stone the only way to do ministry for all time; the temple gave God a way to dwell in the world, not far away, not only for Israel, but right in the middle of a busy city, right at the crossroads of the world, right in the middle of praying, pleaing people of God.
The Temple, the transformed ministry of God and the people of God, was built so that the people could facilitate what God had been trying to do since the beginning of time - - be in relationship with all of creation. The tabernacle that could be moved and tucked away, hidden from enemies, the tabernacle that didn’t let strangers and foreigners get near to God and hear God’s name, didn’t fulfill their mission anymore. So in a time of strength, a time of recognition that NOW we can look forward, the people of God, with the blessing of God, built on the strength of their unity. And we can, too.
A member of the Transformation Team spoke about the need for transformational ministry now, at this time, not in response to crisis, but out of the strengths of our congregation.
From the beginning, the people of God, the temple, and even now the church exist not for themselves, for ourselves. Our transformation consultant reminds us, I think every retreat, that the church is a unique organization in that it is the only organization that exists to serve non-members. The foreigners were non-members. The foreigners were those people who had not heard of Yahweh, the powerful and faithful and covenanting God of Israel. The foreigners were those people who were skeptical that there could possibly be just one God, and that one God was on the side of the underdog, the ignored, the oppressed, the poor.
The temple, Solomon prays, cannot and will not be a place just for the people who know who God is and how God brought the people up out of slavery in Egypt. The temple cannot and will not be a place just for people who know how God provided manna and quail and water to nourish God’s people as they wandered in the wilderness. The temple cannot and will not be a place just for people who know how God hears the cries of those who suffer, those who mourn, and those who long for a day when the world will be different, when the needs of all will be met. The temple, the transforming ministries of the people of God, must be a place where those who don’t know the outstretched arm of the Lord can see it and feel it and know its grace and truth. And for that to happen, the temple, the transforming ministries of the people of God, must be built in a way that is accessible to the foreigners in their midst.
A member of the team wrapped up the proclamation provided by the Transformation Team with thoughts on our call to point to the Triune God and share God's love with the "foreigners" we meet each day.