The Spirit Lives in the Temple 11-23-14

We conclude today the sermon series, God’s Home Address. I’ve enjoyed thinking about various aspects of where we find God, beginning on All Saints’ Day with God’ presence with our ancestors, to the last two weeks’ examination of God’s location in the gifts of discipleship, service, & generosity. Today’s conclusion, on this anniversary, focuses on God’s home in the temple. We already noted in the first sermon of this series that God did not ask for a home in a temple. God tells David quite explicitly not to build a temple because the divine presence was quite content being moveable in the tent, the cloud, & the fire. Human imagination has always liked the idea of finding God in a particular place, however, & today we consider how we define that place of God’s temple. One belief has united Christians over the ages… Listen for the word of God for you this day.

Ephesians 1:15-23  From the time I first heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the holy ones, I have never stopped thanking God for you and remembering you in my prayers.
I pray that the God of our Savior Jesus Christ, the God of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation, to bring you to a rich knowledge of the Creator. I pray that God will enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see the hope this call holds for you—the promised glories that God’s holy ones will inherit, and the infinitely great power that is exercised for us who believe. You can tell this from the strength of God’s power at work in Jesus, the power used to raise Christ from the dead and to seat Christ in heaven at God’s right hand, far above every sovereignty, authority, power of dominion, and above any other name that can be named—not only in this age, but also in the age to come. As God has put all things under Christ’s feet and made Christ, as the ruler of everything, the head of the church, and the church is Christ’s body; it’s the fullness of the One who fills all of creation.

Nov. 23, 2014

The Spirit Lives in the Temple  

When I was in seminary, I got into a discussion with some friends, who were also studying to become pastors. They were asking the question of whether history was moving forward, whether the state of the world is getting better or worse. On the “Reign of Christ” Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year, the Sunday when we recognize Christ as being the head of the church and the ruler of all things, it would seem that we need to answer that question with an faith assertion that, whether or not the world is getting better or worse right now, over the course of history, the world is moving toward a fulfillment of God’s vision, toward God’s kin-dom come, God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.
That’s where I leapt into the argument that day, as I remember – with my belief that the universe is tending upward and forward, even if we can’t see it on a day to day basis. My friends were skeptical and made a more evidence-based, realistic case that many parts of our universe are getting worse rather than better, many parts of human endeavors that are getting more violent, more self-centered, less equal, & more dangerous.
They really made me feel rather naive. Ever since, I have been more careful in asserting this belief of mine, but I still do believe that, when we take everything into account, there is a forward momentum to the universe, that at root, we may call the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The writer of the book of Ephesians had an even stronger faith stance, as we can see from our reading this morning. This writer begins the letter to the people of Ephesus with a prayer for them images the guidance of the Spirit in form of Christ as the head of the church, and all things being at Christ’s feet. For this sermon on the 138th anniversary of this church, I would like to pray to the One who we image in this way – the One who is in charge and who somehow moves this creation forward.
I would like to imitate the writer of Ephesians and make this sermon be a prayer for you, the congregation of St. Luke Church. This is an eyes-open prayer since it is part prayer and part sermon. We can all be part of the prayer though, OK?

Gracious and Eternal God, Creator of all things, Head of the Church, Home of all yearnings, home of all hopes, home of all compassion — we come to you on this 138th anniversary celebration of our little church, our little outpost of your divine and universal church, thanking You for your faithfulness to our worship place for all of these years.

Forgive us when we naively expect You to make everything right for us, right now. Forgive us that we don’t trust your Spirit to be active in our world, even though there is evidence all around us of the blessings of your Presence.
Forgive us when we Christians preach or believe that your kin-dom is a reward rather than a calling. We hear you, O God, speaking to us through the letter to the people of Ephesus speaking to us as a church, addressing us as a whole, and each one of your people, calling us to be your community, calling us to be your people together. We hear you telling us that Christ is inseparable from your church, telling us that we know your Spirit through the practice of being your community, your Church, your body, your temple.
We know that human barriers and divisions crack us apart so easily that we need your Spirit to unify us, that only your power to raise the dead can truly bring us together as your empowered, visioning and active community. We call on you even today to raise our church, to be resurrection power among us, so that we live out your calling in this generation.
Inspire us with that vision that will unify us in common purpose beyond any divisions of world view, beyond any divisions of musical taste, beyond any divisions of theological position, or generational or economic point of view. Make us one. Show us that we are, that we really are One in You. Give us a spirit of wisdom, of revelation, of a rich knowledge of Your creative power among us.

In this week of Thanksgiving, we are working to be more grateful and still we can only notice one or two things to be grateful for at once. If we took into our hearts everything we have to be thankful for, our hearts would be as big as our whole bodies. We thank you for every gift.
We thank you for the music of this place, that has inspired and gifted generation after generation of your people. We thank you for the work of hundreds of hands that have mowed lawns, fixed potluck meals, carried offering plates, changed altar cloths, wiped children’s tears, purchased hymnals, prepared communion trays, printed bulletins, read scripture, lit candles, sang alleluia’s, interviewed candidates, led LIFE groups, greeted new people, emptied gutters, prayed prayers, prayed prayers of hope, prayed prayers of despair, prayed prayers for healing, for unity, for understanding, prayers of gratitude, encouragement, confession, prayers to build a church. We thank you. We thank you. We thank you. We pray it in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
You know, my friends and I in seminary disagreed over whether history is moving forward or backward, up or down, cyclical or straight or wobbly. In our sermon series we have presented different ideas of what God’s home address might be. One belief has united Christians over the ages… Over the ages of Christianity and over the ages of this church, people have different ideas. Some said God lives in a Word at the beginning of time. Some said God lives everywhere, some that God is in a specific heavenly place, with Jesus at God’s right hand.
One belief has united Christians over the ages… Some believed that God lived in the Temple and when it was destroyed, they said that Christ’s body was also God’s temple and that all of our bodies are God’s temple, that God lives in each one of us, so that we get to be God’s hands and feet, God’s voice. One thing all Christians has united us over the ages and over all these different understandings is that where two or more are gathered, Christ was present among them. Whenever we share food with each other, God is there. Whenever we wipe away each others tears, whenever we laugh with our children, whenever we mourn together and sing together and dance together, God is present in the temple of our bodies. God is present in the authentic community, God is present spirited witnesses, God is present in loving servants. God empowers us to be God’s home address.

Responsive Hymn: 3132 House of God