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Not Quite a Thanksgiving Sermon

21-Nov-21

Psalm 132

Have you ever been so absolutely committed to some cause, worthy, or not so worthy, that you spent nearly every waking moment thinking about it? Did that cause, from time to time, even enter into your nightly dreams, because you were so consumed by it? This can happen from time to time in our lives, and when it does happen, it has the potential to consume us totally. The problem with this sort of thing, as I hinted at a moment ago, is two-fold. Either our ambitions are noble, righteous and holy ambitions, or they can be evil, nasty and vengeful ambitions. Here’s a no brainer: noble, righteous and holy things build up, and evil, nasty and vengeful things destroy. This we know very well, and yet we complicate this truth severely by passing back and forth over the line between “build up” and “destroy”. I’m not sure why we do this, but I’m guilty of it too.

King David had a wonderfully noble dream. He wanted, for all the world, to build a fitting house of worship that would bring glory and honor to the God that he so loved and so adored. David wanted to build a temple that would soar to the highest heavens. He wanted to build a house of worship that would be so awesome and so awe-inspiring, that the very building itself would create an atmosphere of humility and adoration in the hearts of the people who came to worship there. This is why we create places of worship even today, that we design, decorate and furnish, so that they are like no other building that we enter into at any other time in the normal routines of our lives. Worship spaces by nature, ought to inspire that which is holy and sacred. There ought to be a sense of “otherness” about them.

David wanted to have a place where God would dwell. He wanted to have a place where everybody who entered this space would instantly know that they were in the presence of Almighty God. This desire completely consumed David. And our text this morning gives a sense of how David was so deeply preoccupied by this project. It quotes David saying, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord. a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” That’s determination. That’s drive. That’s commitment. It is also exaggeration, but it is a godly kind of exaggeration. We know that David had to go inside his house. It is where he lived. And truth be known, as king, he didn’t live all that shabbily. He had some pretty decent digs. But his nice house was actually a significant part of his motivation for wanting to build a dwelling place for God. If he had a nice house, then the Lord, the Mighty One of Jacob, ought to have a better house in which to dwell. And I’m guessing here this morning, that none of us here today has as nice a house and as large a house and as costly a house as this one that surrounds us now. Our forebears planned it this way, and for their forward thinking, on this Thanksgiving Sunday morning, we are very grateful. This is indeed a beautiful house of worship. And who knew but God, that when the pandemic struck, that we would be able to worship relative safety in this gigantic space. Many congregations with smaller buildings were not as fortunate as we are.

David also vowed not to go to bed, or to go to sleep until he had built the Lord a house, but this is also exaggeration, because sleep and rest is how our bodies become restored. After the labors of our day, sleep and rest honors the God who created us. It is our way of emulating God, who rested after his work of creation. Rest is why we are commanded to observe the Sabbath. It is no accident, then, that we worship on the Sabbath. Worship and rest are linked in a mysterious, yet wonderful act of imitating and honoring our God. Rest is our worship, and worship is our rest.

So, then, what is David saying? He is saying, my heart won’t rest as it might, until I find a dwelling place for the Lord. My heart won’t rest until there is a house of worship that brings honor and glory to the Lord. For David, this project was a labor of love that consumed his whole being. And it consumed his whole being. And it consumed his whole being, because at some point in his life, David had an epiphany. He had a “God moment.” Somewhere along the path of his life, David came to fully understand the love and the mercy and the grace and the forgiveness of God. This is an essential step for all of us. It is called our salvation. David was no saint, and he knew it. David was a sinner, and he had committed many egregious sins, murder and adultery among them. And like most of us, he rued the outcome of those sins deeply. He was ashamed of himself, and he bitterly regretted his wrongdoings. He struggled with depression and unworthiness, as many of us do. But somewhere along the way he ran smack-dab into the grace and mercy and love and forgiveness of God. And it transformed his heart. He came to a place in life where he finally realized what God was all about. And he was stunned and amazed and astonished by God, and he was filled with gratitude for all that God had done in his life. And that is why he so desperately, so earnestly wanted to build this house of worship to bring honor and glory to God. When we are stunned and amazed and astonished by God’s love and mercy and grace and forgiveness, we too, will be overwhelmed by gratitude and thankfulness.

David’s passion for building a house of worship for God might have ended as a very sad story, and perhaps even worse than that. Even though it was David’s passion, it was not God’s intent that David build this house of worship. Yipes. Ultimately it was David’s son, Solomon, to whom God gave that responsibility. That is why we call it Solomon’s temple, not David’s temple.

Is that a bad thing? Is it a sad thing? Probably. At least at first. David had a powerful passion that he was not allowed to see to fruition. But it is to all of us a very powerful reminder that God’s work is always on-going in this world, and that God’s timing is not always in sync with our timing. In fact, we like to force God’s hand when it comes to timing, and it is quite a discovery to learn that God’s hand will not be forced, under any circumstances.

I am absolutely convinced that David did not invent his vision of building a grand house of worship. He did not dream it up on his own. God gave him that vision. God put it into David’s heart, and David clearly saw what he could accomplish for the glory and honor of God. But sometimes the visions that we have, supported and buttressed with a holy fervor, have to wait until God is ready. The Apostle Paul had this figured out and he had learned to live with it when he said, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” *

Was that a hard truth for the Apostle to learn? Absolutely. Is it a hard lesson for us to learn? It certainly is. This morning we are part of, and carrying on, a more than 200 year old tradition in this community. Every dollar that we give, every prayer that we utter, every mission that we support, and every time we lend a hand to serve God in this place, God’s work moves forward. But it always moves forward in God’s timing, and always to the glory of God.

Do we know what the result of our work will be in ten or twenty or one hundred years from now? No, we do not. Do we know the future results of the ministries and missions that we begin now, in our time? No, we do not. But we do our work, and we answer our callings, and we dream our dreams, and we receive our visions, knowing that our task is first and foremost to give honor and glory to God. We respond, because like David, we too, have had a “God moment” we have had an epiphany. We are saved. We have come face to face with the grace and the love and the mercy and the forgiveness of God. And we are astonished and amazed. But now, like David, and like Paul, we leave the timing of the completion of God’s kingdom up to God.

And that’s where I want to finish up this morning. It was David’s deep desire to build a dwelling place for God. He desperately wanted to build a glorious house of worship. He had a strong, strong passion to do this. We have strong passions and strong desires to serve God, too. But in God’s ultimate wisdom, David’s passion was not fulfilled. We do not question God’s wisdom. The story, though, by no means, ends here. God had something far greater, far more awesome, and far more amazing, and far more astounding in store for David than a spectacular house of worship. God gave David a different vision, and this vision came with a promise. This promise became the ultimate fulfillment of David’s desire to build a dwelling place for God. That promise is found in verses eleven and twelve. In those verses, God promises David that he will be the father and the ancestor of many kings over God’s people, and that those kings will sit on the throne of Israel forever. That promise has been fulfilled.

And it was fulfilled a little more than two thousand years ago. There was a little baby boy who was born in an obscure little village named Bethlehem. That little boy was also a descendant of David. But in addition to his fairly impressive lineage, this little boy was the Son of the Most High God, and the king of all creation. And with this little boy’s arrival, God established a new and permanent dwelling place for himself. This new dwelling place is far more awesome and far more majestic and far more beautiful than any edifice or building ever conceived by the human mind. This new dwelling place was conceived, designed and created by God himself. This new dwelling place is nothing less than the human heart. And because God is pleased to dwell in the human heart, the heart is more beautiful and more majestic and more awesome and more astounding than we can possibly imagine. This is where God chooses to live. Emmanuel, God with us.

* 1Corinthians 3:5-7

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