4/18/2016 11:07:16 AM
A Reflection on the First Temple
Today's first reading depicts the building of the temple. One of David's sons, Solomon, has ascended the throne. The kingdom is still united and Solomon's reign will be filled with giant building projects. God tells Solomon to finally build the Temple. The Temple will replace what the tabernacle was before. Instead of God promising to be only where the people go, God is now promising to be with the people as the live, and die, in cities and villages. Our reading today covers the construction of the outside of the complex. In parts we don't hear today, the measurements of the walls, the type of wood, and the kind of stone are described. A rear-chamber, an inner-sanctum is described, where the ark of the covenant will be placed. The room will be covered in gold and cedar, both very previous in the time of ancient Israel. It takes 7 years to complete the temple (7 is usually the biblical number for 'perfection' and 'completeness').
During the building, God makes a promise we've heard before. God promises Solomon that, as long as they keep God's ways, God will be with the people. If the situation changes, then God will leave. That idea of presence is central to the biblical narrative. Being in the presence of God matters. Without God's presence, the promise for life falters. This was already seen in the story of the Exodus where God doesn't just lead the people with a pillar of fire but has a tent built so God can live among the people. Now with the people settled, a more permanent structure is built.
The Temple isn't, however, the only place God can be. Rather the Temple is (in my reading at least) the spot where God promises to be. If we want to see God, that is where we go. If we want a relationship with the divine, we head to the Temple. If we want an assurance of being in God's presence, we go to the spot where God promises to dwell. God can, and does, interact us in many different ways and in many different places. But when our soul needs a grounded assurance, a physical place we can go to helps.
As Christians, the physical place we go to experience God isn't at a temple. Isn't only at a church. Instead, as Jesus claims, where two or three are gathered, God is there. Where people gather intentionally to be in the presence of Jesus, Jesus promises to join them. God's presence isn't just a place. God's presence is also tied to the people who gather. Without people, a church building isn't a church. Community, gathered around God's words and what Jesus gives us, is where Jesus promises to be. So let's experience Jesus in this place today.