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In the Temple of the Lord – Br. James Koester

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1 Kings 8: 22-23, 27-30
Psalm 84
Mark 7: 1-13
In the Temple of the Lord, All are Crying, Glory!
You might know the story of David, how as a boy he killed a giant with a few stones and a slingshot. How as a young man, a jealous king tried to kill him. How ultimately he became king and ruled with wisdom and courage, sort of. How as king he decided to construct a temple for the glory of God in Jerusalem but that God had other plans. It was not David who would build the Temple, but his son Solomon. And what a temple it must have been!

The walls and floors and rafters were lined with cedar and cypress and olivewood and gold inside and out. Cherubs and pomegranates and palm trees and flowers were carved into the walls and doors and pillars. It took 200,000 men, working in shifts, seven years to complete.(1)  And when it was finished it must have been one of the wonders of the world, (2) covered in gold, literally blazing forth in the sun, visible from all directions. Scholars are uncertain if anything is left of Solomon’s Temple, except a handful of small artifacts. It stood for just over 400 years before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. But for Solomon, as he stands before the newly completed Temple and prays in today’s lesson, that is many years in the future.
From time immemorial humanity has sought to give expression to the God shaped vacuum   (3) within. Architecture, art and literature have all been ways in which we have attempted to give expression to that, which by its very nature is impossible to express. Even the great king, Solomon, stumbled with words trying to say something impossible about God: Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built.  (4)
Knowing that it is impossible to contain God, yet still we build a house for God that will be a sign, and seal and sacrament of God’s abiding presence with us. We travel the world to ruined temples, cave like grottos, magnificent cathedrals and liminal monastic chapels, not because God can be found no place else, but because there we can “kneel where prayer has been valid” (5) and trust that God will indeed hear, and “heed and forgive” (6) just as Solomon prayed.
In a way, Solomon’s desire to build a Temple for God gives expression to this paradox: that though God cannot be contained, yet still we build containers for God. Like us, whose predecessors built this temple, he and we know that we cannot box God up. Yet like Solomon we also know that this temple can be a place of encounter where we have come to know that God does indeed hear, and heed and forgive. For over 75 years, prayer has soaked into these walls and hallowed them, just as Solomon’s prayer hallowed that first temple so long ago.
But before that temple could be hallowed, something else needed to be hallowed, and this was as true for Solomon as it is for us.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a
heart of flesh. (7)

For God is to be found as easily in a pure heart (8) bursting with love, as in a building covered in gold. God is to be found as easily in a broken and contrite heart, (9) as in a building perfumed with incense. God is to be found as easily in a bleeding heart, (10) as in a building soaked with prayer.

Solomon built his Temple, and we come to this chapel today, as some of us do every day, because we know it to be a place of encounter. We have met God here; but so too have we met God here, in our hearts.

These hearts of ours may be quite simple. They may at times be quite hard. They may even be quite fearful, yet God has promised to take these hearts of ours and turn them into hearts of flesh, just as he has promised to hear our prayers, and to heed and forgive.
Solomon’s Temple was one of the wonders of the world, but so too is your heart. Solomon’s Temple was a sight to behold, but so too is your heart. Solomon’s Temple was a sign and seal and sacrament of God’s abiding presence with the people of Israel, but so too is your heart. All you have to do is open it up to God’s love.

Solomon consecrated the Temple in Jerusalem with this prayer:

…heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there”, that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray towards this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling-place; heed and forgive.

May our hearts, like Solomon’s Temple, be so consecrated.


1. I Kings 7 describe the building on Solomon’s Temple. Most scholars date its construction to the mid-10th century BC, or slightly earlier and its destruction to 587 BC.
2. St. Gregory of Tours (c538 – 594) lists Solomon’s Temple as one of the wonders of the world.
3. There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ. – Blaise Pascal, Pensees
4. I Kings 8: 27
5. T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets: Little Gidding
6. 1 Kings 8: 30
7. Ezekiel 36: 26
8. Matthew 5: 8
9. Psalm 51: 17
10. John 19: 34
11. 1 Kings 8: 27 – 30

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2 Comments

  1. Patrick Smith on February 15, 2014 at 18:18

    That’s a beautiful message. I will take to heart. I needed that. thank you

  2. Ruth West on February 13, 2014 at 23:15

    Some Christians feel that houses of worship should be done away with and
    that worship services should only be in the home. I heard one say that the cathedral was just a “god box.” I totally disagree. God honors our placing great honor on his temples, and we should make them as beautiful as we can. Of course, the heart is the seat of our emotions, and consequently, the seat of true worship. But having a central place to gather, bow, and praise
    in unison is great. Especially in this day of such mobility. At our church
    where we once lived, people came from seven counties, where we joined together in community and Holy Eucharist. I so appreciate all the wonderful places of worship. The National Cathedral is a good example.

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