Looking for God

Where do we find God?  Wherever God has promised to be!

Full Text: 

Looking for God

October 27. 2013 – I Kings 8:1-13

 

            Where do we find God? 

            You may find God in nature, in trees and lakes and rivers and sunsets.  You may find God in interaction with others: playing with your children, talking with your friends, sharing intimacy with your partner.  You may find God in quiet or in noise.  You may find God in music or in conversation.  You may find God in the vast expanse of interstellar space or in the middle of your own heart.

            Where do we find God?  Christians believe that God is everywhere, that there is no where you cannot find God or at least call on God in your need.  Yet there are times when the places you look for God do not seem to hold God.  That the brilliant purple and orange sunset from the day before has been replaced by a gray, cold drizzle, that the still and quiet of the early morning has been supplanted by the cacophony chaos of car traffic,  that the tenderness of a loved one is absent, or worse, turned to bitterness.

            Where do we find God?  We tend to think that this is a very modern question, that in our secular society God is being questioned and doubted and pushed out and relegated to the sidelines.  But this was an important question in ancient Israel as well.

            Doubtless, they had heard the stories of God creating all things.  They had heard as well the stories of God talking to the patriarchs of old – Abraham and Isaac – and even of wrestling with Jacob.

            But the first time that Israel herself – the people – encountered God was at Mount Sinai.  Even there, when Moses offered the possibility for them to meet with God, the people said, “Thanks, but, no, thanks, Moses!  You go ahead without us and tell us about it later!”  So, they encountered God through Moses and through his word. 

            When at long last it was time for the people of Israel to leave the mountain and continue on their journey toward the Promised Land, God said to Moses, “You go, but I am going to stay here, because the people are so stubborn and hard-hearted.  I’m afraid what I might do to them if I get angry.”

            But Moses replied, “You have said, ‘You are special to me.’  But how are we to know that if you stay here on the mountain and do not travel with us?  How will the world know that we are special to you if you do not go with us?”

            So, God went with the people of Israel when they left Mount Sinai.  And it was the Ark of the Covenant that represented the presence of God among them.  The Ark was the container of the stone tablets upon which Moses had carved God’s words, God’s commandments, to the people.

 

            When David became king of Israel – the second king of Israel – he gave the Ark of the Covenant a permanent home in Jerusalem.  David, in fact, wanted to build God a temple, in which the ark would reside.  David lived in a grand palace.  But the ark was kept only in a tent.  When David told God of his desire to build a temple, God politely declined.  “I like living in a tent.  It gives me freedom to move around and be among the people.  No, I don’t want you to build me a temple.  Nevertheless, your son will build me a temple.”

            So it was that Solomon – David’s son – built a temple for God in Jerusalem.  And it was a great and magnificent building.  You can read fully about it in I Kings 6-8.  But I am not a builder or an architect or an interior designer.  I am a theologian.  I like to think about God.  So I am more interested in Solomon’s prayer of dedication, which follows our reading for today.

            Solomon begins by praising God and by thanking God for allowing him to build a temple for him as he had promised to David.  But then Solomon says:

            But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even 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. 28…30Hear 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.  (I Kings 8:27-30)

            Will God indeed dwell on the earth?  There is nothing – not even the entire universe – that can contain God.  But Solomon asks that God may be accessible through the temple, so that when the people of Israel pray toward that place, God will hear and God will forgive.  Solomon goes on to include foreigners – that when those who are not the people of Israel turn toward this place that God will even hear their prayer!

            If the great temple of Solomon and within it the Ark of the Covenant cannot hold God, certainly this loaf of bread and this cup of wine cannot hold God.  Yet, by his word, Jesus has promised to be present in this bread and this wine and, by his word, Jesus has promised God’s own forgiveness in this bread and this wine.

            Will God indeed dwell here?  It may seem very strange to us.  Yet this is what God has promised in Jesus.  All we need do is eat and drink in faith.  All we need to do is trust the word of Jesus.       

We can find God anyplace.  We may find God in the starlit night or the sun-bathed day.  We may find God in small details or big plans.  We may find God in large gatherings of people or in the middle of our own heart.  But here we can be sure.  When we feel lost and alone, when we feel discouraged and down-hearted, when we feel sorrow at what we have done or sorrow at what has happened to us, when we can’t find God anyplace, we can find God here – in this bread, yes; in this wine, yes; but mostly in this word – Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

 

            And where there is forgiveness, there is also life!  And where there is forgiveness, there is also salvation!  And where there is forgiveness, there is also Jesus!