Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Holy Ground

August 26th:

August 26, 2012
Call:           1 Kings 2: 10-12;  3: 3-14
Text:           1 Kings 8: 1-6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43

                Holy Ground

A few minutes ago,
this was what we said
and by saying so,
what we acknowledged
what we recognized
and     what we proclaimed:

                "We are standing        on holy ground
                and I know                      that there are angels all around

Lets us praise Jesus now

                We are standing         On holy ground

This place of worship
This sanctuary is indeed "holy ground"

It is not innately holy.
        God didn't point God's finger at 26 Main St
                Send a bolt of lightening
                As James Earl Jones' voice proclaimed
                        "Build it and I will come."
It is holy ground because it is a place that we have set aside
        To remind us of God's presence and God's promises
        To give us a place to come together
                For worship, sharing, learning, and serving God.
And     To make a statement to the world that we do so.

And it is holy ground despite the fact that those who set it aside
And those who stand on it
Are people who have often               failed God and failed each other

It is holy ground even though - perhaps because of - the fact that
We are an imperfect congregation
        Led by an imperfect pastor
        Worshipping, learning, praying, and serving
        In an imperfect building
        Built and maintained by imperfect workmen
who were engaged and paid by our imperfect predecessors.

And all I can say       is "WOW!"
        What an incredible message of love from God!

That same message must have been conveyed to
        The elders of Israel
        The heads of all the tribes
        The leaders of the ancestral houses
        And all the people of Israel
When they gathered for the dedication of the temple that Solomon had built to and for God.

That dedication and that temple
help us understand
the patch of holy ground on which we stand today
        both in terms of its value for us
        and its dangers to us

[1 Kings 8: 1-6]

The dedication service began
        With the ark of the covenant being brought into the temple.

The ark contained the "Ten Commandments"
and had accompanied the Israelites.
                        Throughout their years in the wilderness
                        Throughout the days of the judges
                        Throughout the days of     King Saul    and King David.

That ark had been nomadic and constantly on the move
Now at last       in this temple                it had a home.

The service continued as Solomon began to speak
        And reminded them that God keeps God's promises
        [10-15, 17-21]

In that dedication service,
The entrance of the ark was the prelude and the processional
The re-mind-er of God's covenant was the call to worship.

And Solomon's prayer was both prayer and sermon.        [22-30]

Solomon's temple was like our sanctuary.
It too was holy ground.

It too was set aside for people to come together
        To worship, share, learn, and serve God
It too reminded people of God's presence.
It too reminded people of God's promises
promises of love        and         Promises of mercy.
It too made a statement to the world

All this is good:               Good for us and good for God

Solomon's temple is like our sanctuary
And, I am quite certain that the people who worshipped there
were like us and we are like them.

Those people were imperfect too.

Oh, they were excited
that the temple was there to remind them of God's presence
        as we are excited that this building is here to remind us.

But despite Solomon's prayer/sermon recognition that
        "Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God"
        Much less the house (the temple) that Solomon built
As the years went on that excitement contributed to their beginning to see      this man made and set aside temple
as innately holy
And as God's dwelling place
                The place where God was and lived and had God's being.
They were excited too
        That the temple was there to remind them of
God's promises                  God's covenants
As we are also excited
that this building is here to remind us many years later

Those Israelites were particularly excited by the promises and covenants that God had made through and to
Moses:  "If you obey my commandments,
I will be your God and you will be my people"
And     David:    "Your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel for ever
                        Although they will need to be punished at times"

But as the years went on that excitement caused them to become cocky and arrogant about those promises
        "We are God's people" they thought
therefore we can do what we please"

They overlooked and ignored that it was a mutual covenant
They overlooked their promises to obey God's commandments
They refused to listen to the prophets
who tried to call them to give priority to the Lord
and not to their own wants, desires, and emotions
                        Prophets like Amos and Hosea in the North
                        Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah in the South.

The problem included Solomon,
The man who had built the temple
The man whose prayer for wisdom had so pleased God

Solomon began to focus much of his energy on creating foreign alliances
        Marrying several hundred wives
and keeping a few hundred concubines in order to do so

And with these wives and concubines came their pagan gods
        And the worshiping of them.

Solomon, like the people he led
were so excited about what God was willing to do for them
        That he became
careless and indifferent about giving God priority,             and
        Thus careless and indifferent about obeying God's commandments

Solomon, like the people he led
Instead of being awed by the gifts of God's presence and promises
began seeing them not as gifts, but as entitlements.
And therefore, they distorted
the re-mind-ers that the temple provided for them.

And when he died, Israel split into two kingdoms: north and south
        Ultimately both kingdoms were conquered
        Leaders were taken into exile
        Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed

And the people felt that either:
God had abandoned them
Or      that God was too weak to do anything to help them.

It took a while - quite a while -
before they realized that it had been their fault
For they had looked
        Not at what God had already done for them
        Not at what they were to do for God
But rather at what they wanted God to do for them
in the present and in the future

They had looked at God as their servant
and not at themselves as God servants.

They had distorted the reminders and opportunities of the holy ground

The story of that ancient temple presents us with questions like:

Are we so like those people that we could do the same thing?

Could you and I soil the holy ground on which we stand?
        Could we distort its reminders and opportunities?

Could you and I ever fall into the trap of thinking
that this sanctuary is the only place where we can be with God
        And that when we are not here that God is irrelevant?

Could we lead lives of indifference
Like the people who worshiped at the temple?

Or will this holy ground
remind us of God's presence in our lives - no matter where we are
and God's promises through Christ
and encourage us to take advantage of the opportunities
        To come together to worship, share, learn, and serve
Thus causing the lives we lead to amplify the message it proclaims?

In short will our lives be ones of indifference, cockiness, and arrogance
        Because we know God loves us
Or will they be ones of giving God priority
        Because we know God loves us - and that we love God.

You and I have just completed a summer of relaxation and less work
        Now, we should be well enough rested to begin to answer those questions

Solomon concluded his prayer/sermon with the following words:
        1 Kings 8: 59-61

They seem a good way to conclude this reflection
For they are just as relevant today as they were then.