St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
1 Kings 8:27-30 Rev. Tyler Amundson August 26, 2012
God…may the words I share evoke the images you hope people to see. For it is in our simple words that you make art with our existence as human beings. Let us be ever faithful to working to share hope and love with the world. Amen
The scripture passage is from the story of the building of the temple to YHWH by King Solomon. The temple was the first one chronicled in the Bible and is the one to which many of us know of to today when we hear about the temple mount in Israel. If you look within the 1 Kings there is an elaborate description of the temple itself and how it was decorated. The temple spared no expense and was decked out with gold everywhere. Solomon was attempting to complete his father, King David’s, vision of the temple and along with this he was attempting to secure the kingdom of Israel as a united kingdom. This very public building was a huge endeavor taken on by the Hebrew people as they united and was a symbol of God with them.
I share this background before I read this passage because I think we need to see the prayer that Solomon is sharing is a public speech. Many times when I read this I first think Solomon is praying in private, but he is sharing this with all of the gathered people. In fact Solomon has waited for this period of time to do this dedication of the temple, he waited for the right feast day when many people will be in Jerusalem to see the event. Specifically, he waited until a huge feast day during the year of jubilee when people’s debts are forgiven and a returning of lands to the original owners occurs. This is a year charged with excitement and Solomon takes time to grasp the moment. Imagine the crowds cheering and the excitement as the people of Israel pray for God to be with them.
If this event took place today the news cameras would be everywhere and I can imagine the anchor after the commercial. “Dead Sea sandals so tough even the prophets won’t wear them out.”
Anchor, “Welcome back to our coverage of the temple unveiling. We cut now to the temple where King Solomon has begun his prayer.”
1 Kings 8:27-30
26 O God of Israel, let this all happen; confirm and establish it!
27-32 Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. Even so, I’m bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now. Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My Name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place.
Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive.
1 Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado
Springs: NavPress, 2002, 22 Aug. 2012 <http://www.biblegateway.com/>
Imagine the intensity with which people would sharing this event with feelings of excitement, the anger, the anticipation, the hope, the fear, and so much more. You see this wasn’t just a spiritual move for the people of Israel it was a political one too. Solomon was securing the seat of power for Israel in Jerusalem. Then with the temple as a holy site Solomon is stating clearly, “This is where our God and our togetherness come from. Here in this temple feel the presence of God and in this city feel the presence of our togetherness as a people.”
We have felt this same kind of national pride. While we do not tie God into it directly, the idea of the holy within the nation is something very present in our language. This intensely emotional connection when we can feel connected with other people and especially when a certain place is tied to those emotions. Those buildings seem to transcend time and space and connect us with something beyond our explanation. Many of us have felt these things either at national monuments, historical sites, or even on mountain tops. This feeling is a sense of connection to something bigger than we are.
Solomon is moving from what the Hebrew people have known as the place of the Holy’s dwelling in the tabernacle to this new temple. For generations the Hebrew people have moved the tabernacle from one place of dwelling to the next. The tabernacle was the properly constructed tent the Israelites built after leaving Egypt and while in the desert. This tent was built to specific dimensions and this new temple was meant to replicate those dimensions to become the new residing place of God. Solomon is stating through this construction, “This is our land, our God, and this building our holy place.”
Whenever I read this passage I always feel like there is something missing. As if there is a part of the story underlying all of the happenings we read about. It is as if there story is going untold. Prophets, our Christ, and countless others tell it after this happens. However, if you read into the text again you can see where the real story is being told. As Solomon describes this grand God they invite into the temple, he states how God is too big to be confined to this new temple. Then Solomon lets the people believe this is where God resides. As if magically the words in his prayer were not true, God loves this people so much that he will give up the heavens to reside with them. The truth is God would, but not in some commodity like a building.
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, the Adventure Rabbi, leads her community by participating in traditional Jewish practices in the outdoors and in ways that re-connect them to their roots. She has a back-packing Torah and holds Shabbat services on the ski slopes in Colorado. Her description of this coming inside the temple was a controlling of the experience of God. People were celebrating God in many ways on the mountain tops and in order to bring some unity to the kingdom leaders pull the worship to a place it can be regulated. Her argument is that it made sense for the leaders of that day to build a connection among people, but now religion has been so tempered that experiencing God is difficult. By bringing people outdoors, where they experience spiritual moments anyway, she invites them to reconnect with God and the traditions begin to make sense again. The traditions of the people are about ensuring one another is respected and that we are each connected to each other.
Here it is the story underneath all of this is the fine line of organized religion. We form these religious communities to be able to learn and experience the holy with each another. The energy the people were feeling as Solomon read the prayer was something we long for. It is a connection to each other and a sense that we will watch out for the needs of each other. However, Solomon’s temple takes a step maybe too far by making God a commodity. In fact it is such a commoditized God that people begin to feel that without this building then there is no connection to one another and no God.
As I was reading this passage I came across a contemplation by well know Old Testament scholar, Walter Bruggerman. He pondered that in this building of the temple, this commoditizing of religion; there was something all too familiar from our current world present in the need to build this ornate structure. Specifically Bruggerman focuses on the forced labor that occurs in which people themselves begin to become commodities. This is a problem if you look at the remainder of the Bible and especially the part where the Hebrews form the nation of Israel. For them the first 5 books of the Bible, called the Torah, are the most important. The overarching message of the Torah including 7 of the 10 commandments is about respect of the other, other person, or other neighbor.
Bruggerman relates this specifically to our world in which the inherent worth of an individual is continually driven to be how much the individual can produce for the economy. The temptation being that we can slowly move to identify people’s worth by how much they can produce. Slowly we move to point where people are the commodity if we do not check ourselves. Bruggerman is sure to point out that not only does the Torah discourage against this, but the prophets of the Bible and Christ strongly encourage us to value one another. Most specifically Christ calls us to say that valuing one another is the calling of God on our heart and for us to value our world the same.
2 Bruggerman, W. (1998, July). Faith with a price. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20000708195242/http:/www.theotherside.org/archive/jul-aug98/brueggemann.html
The challenge in this message is we must value the world despite our want to simply see the value in a person for what they can create for us. This message is most clearly seen in the ways we share values with children and the young. Think about what we teach children from an early age: share, be nice, have fun, cry when you need to, and love extravagantly. Most of all we know there is something we do not know about what the child will share with the world. We can not see there value and our love does not care of their value as a commodity. We instead work with them and hope they will live a full life and do what they can to bring compassion to this earth.
Ponder for a minute if our political campaign focused on the value of the candidate and not the candidates’ usefulness to us. What if in elections we asked candidates tough questions about the issues coming before us? Asking these questions with an expectation they give answers that were well thought out. Then we value both persons in our conversations with respect, instead of using words to undermine their humanity. Compassion is one of the things that could change our political conversation. Commodities can only bring more stuff, but people can bring transformation.
As we send our kids back to school it is important to remember that we need to not commoditize people. We need not temper God or one another, but instead we are called to create compassionate community to share with one another. If we build ornate and prayerful spaces, then we must share them with as many as possible.
Crystal reads a Blog called Momastary, it is a mother’s blog and a play on monastery. The author of the blog is a mother who had a tough patch in life, but is working really hard to be a great mother to her children and loving spouse. I will end today with a letter she wrote to her son on the first day of 3rd grade this year. It is for me the entirety for our faith walk and it is how we best learn how not to temper God or people. Instead it is how we support with wild wonder the compassion that is God and the love that is for one another. Remember as Christians that Christ calls us to find love within ourselves, within creation, and most importantly that God is most present in our relationships with one another. Here is the Momastary letter to her son…
Please find Blog post here: http://momastery.com/blog/2012/08/23/the-talk/