Midweek August 23, 2012

 

Psalm 11

 

To the leader. Of David. 1 In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the mountains;* 2 for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’

4 The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind. 5 The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence. 6 On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulphur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

 

1 Kings 6:15-38

15He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the rafters of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress.16He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters, and he built this within as an inner sanctuary, as the most holy place.17The house, that is, the nave in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long.18The cedar within the house had carvings of gourds and open flowers; all was cedar, no stone was seen.19The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the Lord.20The interior of the inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar.*21Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, then he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold.22Next he overlaid the whole house with gold, in order that the whole house might be perfect; even the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.

The Furnishings of the Temple

23 In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.24Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other.25The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form.26The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub.27He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings towards the center of the house were touching wing to wing.28He also overlaid the cherubim with gold.

29 He carved the walls of the house all round about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms.30The floor of the house he overlaid with gold, in the inner and outer rooms.

31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and the doorposts were five-sided.*32He covered the two doors of olive wood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold, and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees.

33 So also he made for the entrance to the nave doorposts of olive wood, each four-sided,34and two doors of cypress wood; the two leaves of one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding.35He carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, overlaying them with gold evenly applied upon the carved work.36He built the inner court with three courses of dressed stone to one course of cedar beams.

37 In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv.38In the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.

 

John 15:16-25

16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

 

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.19If you belonged to the world,* the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.20Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants* are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.23Whoever hates me hates my Father also.24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

 

 

 

The text from 1 Kings describes a space that must have been awe inspiring.  Stone is covered with cedar.  Cedar is covered with gold.  Skilled carvings adorns every wall and door.  If you cannot hear the grandeur and glory of this place you were not listening.

 

This was no ordinary building.  Despite the implication to any observer that those who constructed it has unlimited wealth and power, the building was not built to convey this message.  It was built to house the ark.

 

The mammoth cherubim, guarding the ‘inner sanctum’, indicate God’s presence.  That is the point of this entire description.  Although the Temple is the center of the entirety of first and second Kings, it is God’s presence that precipitates this construction in the first place. 

 

Seven years of labor eventually gets undone.  Shishak rifles the treasury (1 Kings 14:26); Ahaz strips the stands and removes the bulls (2 Kings 16:17); Hezekiah removes the gold from the doors (2 Kings 18:16); Nebuchadnezzar cuts up the gold vessels that Solomon made and in the final disaster, Nebuzaradan  lights the place on fire.

 

The irony of this account is that it is told to a people who know that this place has been burned to the ground.

 

Some folks estimate that it would cost over 174 billion dollars to build that temple today.  We do not have the original ‘bid’ documents, so this isn’t any easy conversion from the currency of ancient times to today’s dollar.  Suffice it to say it was enormous in scope and in size and in cost.  It stood for 370 years, give or take, providing a visual reference for anyone with eyes to see.

But, in 586 BCE, thanks to  the Babylonians, there it is, in ashes, with whatever was valuable carted off.

We could do a similar review.  Our history tells us that  in 1766

It was built of limestone walls three feet thick, 40 feet wide and 50 feet long.  The building was 50 feet high, with a 17 foot tower on the eastern end. Atop the tower was a weather vane in the shape of a rooster, cast out of tin and lead.

 

The roof was supported by heavy hewn timbers. The whole space inside, 34 x 44 feet, walls and ceiling, was neatly plastered and finished with a white coat. The door frames were made out of red sandstone, as well as the doorsills, the frames and keystones. There were windows, upstairs and down, on each side of the building. The stone and woodwork showed exquisite craftsmanship…

 

Inside, the walls had a finish of good plaster, neat and white. The floor was brick pavement. There was a balcony on three sides. The front of the balcony was laid out in nine panels, three on each side, on which were carved in the most exquisite workmanship and skill scenes taken from the Bible, beginning with the Garden of Eden and ending with the Redemption. Doric columns supported the balcony.

 

The posts or columns at the main entrance were like that of the temple – Jachin was on the right and Boaz on the left – the true temple idea…

 

The pulpit was wine-glass in shape, resting on a single column overshadowing the altar, all enclosed by the chancel, thus uniting the Word and the Sacrament.[1]

 

The need for a third building project came about in 1878,

Architect Edward K. Mull was consulted and he drew up plans to build an annex on the church’s south side… The dimensions of the new church were 50 x 82 ½ feet, and the work cost $11,000 to complete.

In the late 1800’s the basement was renovated for Christian education.

In 1929, an ‘annex’ was constructed to help with education, including the chapel…and between pledges and a loan, cost roughly $95,000.00[2]

In 1930, the interior of the sanctuary was totally renovated and the chancel expanded to what we know now. 

In 1996, a major renovation of the church building was undertaken. Called “Project Care,” this $583,000 project included updating electrical wiring, painting and re-carpeting the sanctuary, refinishing the pews and floors, updating the kitchen, air conditioning the sanctuary, installing a new security system, and many other improvements. Members were asked to make monetary pledges to support the project, and five years after it began, the debt incurred by Project Care was completely satisfied.

In 2010, we refurbished the parking lot and paint the exterior of the church, at a cost of approx…$100,000.00

I am guessing that over the years, we’ve spent roughly 2.5 million dollars (in 2012 dollars) in improving the original stone church.

It was and is no Solomon’s temple.  But for a few immigrants in a foreign land, it was (and is) an accomplishment and testimony to their faith.

What we might learn from these two stories is this: that the God of the Bible does make guarantees, but they do not involve structures, systems, or human institutions.  These things, at their best, are tools.  At their worst, they are idols.  They were, and are here for a purpose:  So that we might proclaim that God’s guarantees involve the trustworthiness of God’s promises; particularly in and through the presence and person of Jesus Christ. 

In the Book of Kings, as important as it is, Solomon’s temple itself is no guarantee of God’s presence.  So in the New Testament, the focus is not on a temple “made with hands.”[3]  The temple for the earliest Christians and for us is the “Body of Christ,”  the gathered disciples, the real church, where the real presence of Christ dwells.  How much  are we going to invest in that?


[1] Kershner, and Lerch, “History of St. John’s (Hain’s) Reformed Church, I.M. Beaver:  1916

[2] “History of St. John’s (Hain’s) Bicentennial Supplement, p. 17

[3] Acts 7:44-50

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