October 27, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
GodStory, Act III: Israel
Key Event #8 of 37
Reading: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 12-13; 8:1-6, 27-30, 41-43
Title: “What is Our Worship Building?”
Today we leap from the reign of David to the reign of his son Solomon. Datewise we’re about 1000 BCE. King David and King Solomon are the 2 big Kings of the GodStory. David…soft on the eyes, charming, rugged, a musician, a sportsman, a lover, a fighter…
Solomon…son of David & Bathsheba (remember her?)…smart, savvy, gifted, great gene pool. These are superstars of the GodStory, strong, powerful, influential Kings. Almost makes us want to ask “so where do we fit in?” Well, lest we forget, though the public and historical profile of these kings is filled with lots of fame and prestige, our GodStory doesn’t leave out the messy parts. David: adulterer, kniver, killer. Solomon, a messed up son in a very messed up family…very good at making peace and working out deals with other political leaders, but he had a weakness for women, he was a compromiser, and used power to oppress the weak and build his fortunes.
All this to remind us that this sacred text of ours is not neat and tidy. And yet these are living words and living stories given to us by a living God. So again, as we dwell in the world of our scriptures today, may we find revelation that informs us of who God is, who we are, and in the midst of the complex world we live in, how we might live as the people of God.
I’ve got 1 question to frame our thoughts today, but I’m going to ask it in 2 ways…and allow today’s story to inform and fuel our imaginations…
Q: What is our worship building?
One of the prime reasons why we’re worshipping in a place set aside for the worship of our living God is probably related to today’s Solomon story.
Solomon was a wise & peace-making King…he got things done and built relationships that seemed elusive for his father. And he made lots of money getting his work done. And thus it was a peaceable time in the Kingdom, and the coffers were full of money and we read Solomon’s declaration:
“I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God…as the Lord said to my father David, ‘Your son shall build the house for my name.’”
And it was so…when Solomon spoke, people listened – – the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, peace, & prosperity….and 30 000 workers…and the 7-year project began.
A beautiful work of art and design…50 m long, 15 m high, 12 m wide…imagine this…set in the most beautiful landscape of Jerusalem. And when it was done, Solomon made sure that all of the worship artifacts that his father had dedicated to the Lord had a place in the temple. The artifacts of the people of God had finally found a resting place and the people of God, who had been wandering for years as a people on the “run” had too found themselves a resting place to worship God.
This was the worship building of the people of God! And God, it seems, was gracious enough to condescend and show up for the worship celebrations!
In one of Solomon’s opening prayers at the temple he cries out:
“O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart” (8:23).
THIS was the worship building to begin ALL worship buildings in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And 3000 years later, here we are, gathering week after week in our own worship building…
So, let me ask the question again…What is our worship building?
In a practical & tangible sense, it’s the brick, wood, cement and plaster of this place. Look at it…built in 1955…some of you were here when it was brand new…nothing like the smell of fresh sanctuary pews eh? That “fresh church” smell…
Our worship building is this set-apart place…sitting just south of Jasper and 109 Street, dwarfed by all the buildings that have sprung up around us for the past 60 years.
Our worship building is sanctuary, chapel, office space, fellowship hall, Sunday and small group space, banners, organ, pianos, baptistry, communion trays and cups…
And btw…our worship building costs money. In the past 5 years that I’ve been here, we’ve spent 100’s of thousands of dollars renovating and renewing this space [kudos to the FRC!]…a new heating system, parlour renovation, chapel restoration, new flooring in the basement and fellowship hall, gymnasium renovation, new windows…this place costs money! But we believe that it’s money well spent, because THIS is our worship building.
BUT NOW I’VE GOT TO ASK THE QUESTION IN a 2nd WAY…
What is our worship “BUILDING”?? [building is a verb!]
As in…what’s the product that we are producing from this place as a group of people who call themselves FBC Edmonton?
Now that may sound way too much like factory language VS church language…but Church Council and Church Ministry Staff are re-shaping and re-visiting our 5-year “identity plan” this fall and when we do reflection like this, we ask some of the “product” questions…like “what are we growing and producing in these days”?
And the answer that I’d like to offer in response to the “product” question is this:
WE ARE BUILDING BETTER CHRISTIANS.
Now let me expand on this a bit…when I say “better” Christians, I’m being influenced by the thinking/writing of Brian Mclaren and the Lutheran Professor/preacher David Lose and even in the light of our pre-church course, I’m being influenced by Randal Rauser as well.
A “better Christian” = A strong, generous Christian.
A strong Christian is a Christian that believes in Christ & in the essentials of the Christian faith.
A generous Christian is a Christian that is kind and benevolent. A Christian who models the fruit of the spirit as s/he lives in the world.
Now you might ask… “isn’t that a no brainer?” Christians should believe in Christ, and Christians should love others. Perhaps that’s your experience, but I meet and read stories about lots of people who don’t see Christians that way (you ought to do a personal survey sometime…ask someone what kinds of words come to mind when they hear the word “Christian”?).
BUILDING BETTER CHRISTIANS…this isn’t going to show up on our bulletins or newspaper adverts anytime soon but our life of worship together ought to be getting us there. I hope you are a better, stronger, more generous Christian because you are a part of this worshipping community called FBC Edmonton. I hope that you can say that you are becoming a more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient Christian because you are here…
If not, you need to get your money back (I joke…but I do think that if you are going to a church, then it ought to be a life-giving, fruit-bearing experience and NOT a sour-grapes, life-sucking endeavour).
So…HOW does BBC happen at FBC??
Going back our mission/vision statement, it’s related to the statement that shows up on our bulletin covers each week…taken from Jeremiah 29:7… “seeking the peace and well-being of the city.”
And this Fall, we’ve been trying to expand this statement by giving it a little more breadth…YES, we seek the peace and well-being of the city and like we heard in 1 Kings 8:41-43, we desire that ALL the peoples of the earth (of this city) might know of the name of the Lord – – but we do this seeking as we:
– listen to heart of God
– allow ourselves to be moved by the Story of God (our living word)
And I don’t want to get too haughty or outlandish here…but I want to say that we are in a great era of life here at FBC. Just as Solomon and God’s people were at the right time and right place to do a good work for God’s glory, so too, are we…every one of us, are here for such a time as this to do a good work for God’s glory.
FBC…you should be pleased to know that peace & wisdom are alive & well in this place….church council and church ministry staff are united and working well together…we are not perfect, but we are good!
FBC…you ought to know, too, that you are a great congregation! We are all in this together, and week after week, it’s amazing to hear of how we are working, living and ministering in the city, and how this place (and perhaps those who sit near you) are an important part of each others’ journeys of faith & spiritual formation.
So…LET US PAUSE…and stand with Solomon…before the altar of the Lord in the temple of the LORD…what prayers of worship might we offer to the Lord as we become BETTER CHRISTIANS?
Let’s echo the prayers of Solomon…
Let’s pray for:
– wisdom (5:12)
– peace (5:12)
– humility (8:27)
– favour/attention (8:28)
– forgiveness (8:30)
These are good prayers for us….and I hate to be a downer…but as we’re standing alongside Solomon, we need to be mindful of the reality that good times like this don’t always last forever…so we need to hold this season of life and worship with open hands…but I hope your dreams and aspirations for this season of “worship building” is to work for and pray for God’s glory…
We pray for God’s glory to show up – –
In this building…amongst the bricks and mortar around us…
We pray for the God’s glory to show up – –
In THESE buildings…our bodies! As we talk about the temple of God, it’s important that we recognize that the fantastic thing about our future as the people of God, is that even if this building around us crumbles and turns into another condo or a parking lot…the spirit of the living God is not hemmed in by building permits and property taxes…but dwells in you and me.
The Apostle Paul’s mind blowing revelation for himself and his hearers…and us,
is an echo of the mind-blowing revelation that Jesus shared with his accusers in today’s Gospel text – –
Jesus says, “Destroy this temple in three days and I will raise it up.”
Paul says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
King Solomon foreshadows this radical idea…
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!
And in a letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the temples of our bodies being ordinary vessels that contain the treasure of the living Christ! He writes:
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
The Glory of God is in US…as we put on display, the life of Jesus…
Yes, we seek to do this in this building, in this house of worship.
But even more importantly, and more powerfully…it’s about you and me,
temples of the Holy Spirit, putting on display the life and heart of Jesus.
O Lord, let your glory fall in the place…and may your glory propel us and fill us…to be BETTER CHRISTIANS…for that might very well be “worship building” at its best.