August 26, 2012: Prayer and Peace

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s/2008/12/steveteague1-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Good news for Israel – you have a Temple in your future. Bad news – King David behaved badly and the temple’s been put on hold. Good news – King Solomon, now on the throne, has finished building it. Solomon, elders and priests lead the procession into the Temple, magnificent, huge, elegant and opulent. When the ark is placed in the inner sanctum, such a cloud fills the temple – worship stops. God’s glory now is present. Warning – I don’t want to hear a new intercession: “Lord we pray you send your glory in a cloud, right before the sermon next week.” Go ahead and laugh – I have already beseeched the Lord to skip over any such prayers.

Solomon stands at the altar, lifts his hands and prays: “O Lord, there is no God like you anywhere. You are faithful. You promised this temple. You kept your promise. Remember you also promise to keep our covenant, and keep my family on the throne forever. We’re with you. So keep up the good work.”

Public prayers sometimes get sprinkled with more of an announcement for the congregation: “Lord we thank you our wonderful potlucks, including the one next week for which we are to bring food to share with four others.” Solomon turns to the people: “Will God dwell here on earth?” – planting a seed for them to ponder. And then he returns to God: “You are higher than the highest heaven, Lord, let alone to think you confine yours to this lowly house I built.” Wonder who that’s for – I think God already knows that. “And always be on call for us. We’ll name the temple for you. Hear our prayers. Forgive our sins.”

And now Solomon goes rogue. Solomon prays that this Temple will open 24/7 for anyone to come pray, even non-Jews, like us. All are welcome, not just our kind. No one is a stranger, foreigner or unwelcomed before God in this house. Too bad so few catch that.

Why are we here – to pray, draw near to God, be filled with God’s glory? We do have a pretty building, and nothing is wrong with a beautiful sacred space, as long as we worship God and not bricks, mortar and windows. Like the ark, our building is a tangible symbol of God’s presence, pointing us toward God when we pray and worship. Worship and pray often enough and we’ll notice God’s life abiding in ours – as Jesus says – at this table, eating living bread. We begin to abide in God’s life. We begin to recognize what is eternal, like love. Our hearts open more and more in love for God that spills over to others. We even learn to hold love firmly, and hold loosely what is temporal. Poet Mary Oliver writes: To live in this world/ you must be able/ to do three things/ to love what is mortal/ to hold it/ against your bones knowing/ your own life depends on it[1];/ and when the time comes to let it go/ let it go. The church helps us let go of what mortal in due time, so we can make room to hold what is immortal. God never lets us go. No one out there will tell you this.

For a time people took their worship of God seriously. But in time worship fervor fades. They turned to other gods. In our day people become casual about worship attendance. Other gods creep in to claim our interest, time and commitments. God awareness fades. Does the Lord not come to fill our temples anymore – or do we no longer notice? In worship and prayer God’s life is unleashed. We enter a larger world where loving and letting go of self makes room, for God’s eternal life to enter our mortal existence. We learn here that God’s life and love radiate into the world through us. We begin to see God’s presence expressed through all people and all things. In growing one with God, we find peace, peace that comes from hearts open to God. Our gratitude to God comes by showing up, and praying and living in peace with each other – with all peoples, not just our kind. We are in training here to become the temple Solomon prayed for. Are we willing to ask God to hear prayers and cries from all people? Do people know they can find God’s glory in here – do we? What would our neighbors miss if we weren’t here? The temple is the place God realigns us – to serve God by loving others and all creation.

Worship space is sacred space – by how we are present to God, who is always present with us. God is present everywhere, in all things – but sometimes we won’t see God’s glory everywhere, if we can’t see God’s glory somewhere. The Temple – the church: a place we pray, a place where we become at one with God and each other – a place where peace begins. The Temple – the church – it’s a contact, not spectator sport – the place where was are most deeply connected with God, where we gather to again remember what eternally matters, so we can live as if we get it – until one day, we finally do.

[1] Sarah Walker Cleaveland, Lesson and the Arts, Lectionary Homiletics, August, 2012, p. 30.


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