Sermon from Sunday June 2nd 2013 / Pentecost “Prayer and the Presence of God”
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / June 2nd / Proper 4 in the Season of Pentecost, 1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like You, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart; You have kept with Your servant David my father what You declared to him. You spoke with Your mouth, and with Your hand have fulfilled it this day.”
(1 Kings 8:22-24 ESV)
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that Your servant prays before You this day, that Your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may listen to the prayer that Your servant offers toward this place.”
(1 Kings 8:27-29 ESV)
“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, comes from a far country for Your name's sake (for they shall hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by Your name.”
(1 Kings 8:41-43 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. When Muslims pray, they pray toward the Kaaba in Mecca, they even have something called Qibla that helps them figure that out, sometimes this is like a little directional aid: It helps point them in the literal direction toward where the Kabba in Mecca is, towards the geographical location where Muhammad has told them to pray.
King Solomon, the son of King David, does two interesting things as he prays in our Old Testament reading this morning. First Solomon directs his prayers “toward heaven” by “spreading out his hands,” now he does this because this is where God is generally understood to be dwelling, this is still the common understanding of most people today: Then there is this second thing that Solomon teaches in his prayer, Solomon prays, “O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that Your servant prays before You this day, that Your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may listen to the prayer that Your servant offers toward this place.” So what is going on? Solomon prays towards heaven, then he also reiterates God’s promise to hear prayers directed towards the Temple in Jerusalem. This sounds a lot like praying toward the Kaaba in Mecca, but is it the same as that?
First remember that the there were no Muslims back when King Solomon was king in Israel, in fact there were no Muslims when Jesus was walking the earth as we hear of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke this morning. Muhammad wasn’t born until 1,523 years after the year that Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, which is the occasion of our Old Testament reading this morning. What does this mean? It means that Muhammad the inventor of Islam, the Muslim faith, comes way after everything that we are talking about today. Secondly remember that Muhammad actually patterns the idea of praying toward the Kaaba in Mecca after what we find in our Old Testament passage. Of course Muhammad doesn’t direct Muslims to pray toward the location of the temple in Jerusalem but rather towards a place of Muhammad’s choosing.
There is one other reason I bring up Muhammad, Muhammad is one of the non-Jews, one of the foreigner, of which king Solomon speaks of in his prayer. Muhammad therefore (in this one way) is like the Centurion from today’s Gospel reading. Muhammad and the Centurion are both foreigners. Both of these men live long after the day that the temple was being dedicated to God by king Solomon but the prayer Solomon prays is a prayer for them and for all of us gentiles, all of us non-Jews; that if “a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel,” Solomon prays, “comes from a far country for Your name's sake (for they shall hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You” Basically, answer the prayer of the foreigner when he prays to You, when she prays toward this temple answer her prayers. This is Solomon’s prayer to God; That God would answer the prayers of non-Jewish people when they pray toward Jerusalem’s Temple; when they turn from their false way and turn to God’s Holy Temple.
But wait just a second you say! We don’t face the geographical location of the place where Solomon’s Temple to God was built? We don’t pray towards Jerusalem as Muslims pray towards the Kaaba in Mecca? What am I to make of this prayer of King Solomon? The Centurion in our Gospel lesson from the Gospel of St. Luke doesn’t pray toward the Temple He prays to Jesus!
Ah! He prays to Jesus. Where do you pray? Do you pray toward a place? Do you pray up to heaven? Do you pray to Jesus like the Centurion? “From your lips to God’s ears” From your mouth to the ears of Jesus! What can be made of all this?
Solomon was dedicating the Temple that he had built in honour of God, a temple that his father King David had desired to build because David looked out from his palace and said “to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” Moses, who God had used to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, had been directed by God in the wilderness to build the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle tent, God directed Moses to assemble the tabernacle tent about 500 years before the Temple in Jerusalem was built. So for about 500 years the presence of God was promised to dwell in that tent of meeting, it moved with the people and the throne of God on earth was the Ark of the Covenant which would be placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple that Solomon built, enshrined in Gold. Why is this important? Where is the presence of God today? Is it still situated on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant? Is it in a tent? Is it in a temple? One of our great hymns says “Surely in temples made with hands, God, the Most High, is not dwelling;High above earth His temple stands, All earthly temples excelling. Yet He who dwells in heav’n above chooses to live with us in love, making our bodies His temple. We are God's house of living stones, Built for His own habitation; He through baptismal grace us owns Heirs of His wondrous salvation. Were we but two His name to tell, Yet He would deign with us to dwell, With all His grace and His favor.”
At His ascension into heaven, after His death for your sins upon the cross and after His resurrection for your eternal life on the third day, Jesus commanded Holy Baptism and now in your baptism He is with you always to the end of the age. God Father Son and Holy Spirit dwells with you and you with Him in your baptism. St Paul says “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
Jesus in His Conception, Birth, Daily Life, and Death was the tabernacle tent and Solomon’s Temple all wrapped up into one: walking the earth in the flesh, dwelling with the children of Israel: John’s Gospel says “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is Jesus: God present with man in the flesh. St Paul tells us in that “He who descended is the One who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” In Holy Baptism He fills you, Jesus fills you up, and makes your cup overflow, overflow with the forgiveness of your sins, overflow with the love of God, with peace that the world cannot give, with eternal life.
After the events of our Old Testament Reading from 1st Kings, 2 Chronicles says that “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
What is this “glory of the LORD” that fills the Temple of Solomon? The language used there is like the language used to describe the presence of God on Mount Sinai when Moses received the 10 Commandments, it’s used to describe the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that went with the people guiding them during their 40 years in the wilderness: With Jesus it is the same sort of language used at the Mount Of Transfiguration when “a cloud came and overshadowed [Peter, James and John while they witnessed Jesus in glory];” This kind of “glory of the LORD” language is found when Jesus is speaking of His coming crucifixion saying “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” Saint Paul says that Jesus “was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.” After His resurrection when Jesus commanded the Baptism of all nations, which would include the foreigners (the non-Jews), we see this sort of language again when as the Apostles “were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as [Jesus] went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
This Jesus now fills you up in your Baptism, this Jesus who was and is the glory of the LORD fills you up in your baptism. He is the answer to Solomon’s prayer when Solomon marvels as he prays saying, “will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built!” Jesus is all powerful and He dwells where He promises to dwell, in baptism you are sealed into His All Powerful Life, Death and Resurrection; and when He takes the bread and says “Take, eat; this is My body,” He promises to be present in Holy Communion, when He takes the cup and says “This is my Blood” the glory of the LORD is with you in the LORD’S Supper. This is Jesus, this is Jesus for you. This is Jesus’ promise.
Because of Christ Jesus, we need not turn our prayers to a physical place, we turn our prayers to God in Christ Jesus, we pray to God in the name of Jesus and we can pray with confidence that He will hear our prayer, we can trust this because Jesus has promised to dwell with us, He walks with us wherever we go, and with Him (in our baptism) we are never without God. All people are called to turn to God in Christ Jesus, “no one comes to the Father except through Me” Jesus says. Pray in Jesus’ name and your prayer will be heard and you will receive what you need. If you have faltered in your prayer, if you have prayed to something or someone other than Jesus, there is forgiveness for this: ask and you shall receive it. If you have faltered in your church attendance and have not turned together with your brothers and sisters in Christ to God in prayer, there is forgiveness for this too: ask and you shall receive it! If you’ve failed to remember your baptism and have discounted the Glory of the LORD which dwells in you, if you have long missed gathering at the communion rail to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, there is forgiveness for you: ask and you shall receive it. All this forgiveness is yours in Christ Jesus: Christ Jesus who has chosen to be present with you yesterday, today and forever. We with Solomon and all the faithful can in Christ Jesus this day say, “For [the LORD] is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The Love of God be with you always. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 2 Samuel 7:2
 Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House, 2006. # 645 Built on The Rock.
 Exodus 33:7-11
 Matthew 1:23
 Matthew 28
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
 John 1:14
 Ephesians 4:10
 Psalm 23:5
 Acts 2:28
 Ephesians 3: 19-21
 John 14:27
 John 11:25
 2 Chronicles 7:1-3
 Exodus 24:16
 Exodus 13:20-21
 Luke 9:34
 John 12:23
 Romans 6:4
 Acts 1:9-11
 Ephesians 4:30
 Matthew 26:26
 Matthew 26:28
 John 14:6
 1 John 5:14-15
 Matthew 7:7