07 September 2014

Homily for Evening Prayer

A God who is everywhere is not much different from a God who is nowhere. What we need is a God who is somewhere. (Nagel) And that is the God of Israel. A God who in unfathomable mercy and kindness locates Himself in an “x marks the spot” sort of way so that His people can find him, can go to where He promises to be for them, can offer there their prayers and praises to heaven, His dwelling place, and at that earthly meeting place forgiving sin.

So the old temple that Solomon, Son of David, dedicated in Jerusalem was a connecting place of sorts. There earth could come up to touch heaven for a bit, there sinners could flee to find sacrifices of blood with promise of forgiveness, there petitioners could address their requests to the God who is like no other, the God who keeps covenant and shows steadfast love to those who walk before Him with all their heart, there earthly hymns mingled with heavenly ones. And it was a beautiful place. Adorned with the skills of men working their utmost for His highest. Every bit of art and music shouting out: Holy, holy, holy!

And yet, people loved by God, majestic and awesome as Solomon’s temple was, it pales in comparison to THIS house whose rededication it is our joy to celebrate today. Yes, for between that temple and this, came great Solomon’s greater Son, building the grand temple of His body, the Church. A temple that would not stand for a few measly years only to be swept away in a time of war and bloodshed. A temple, instead, built of living stones. Of sinners whose sins have been covered by the blood of the One sacrifice, the offering of Christ upon His cross, a fragrant offering, acceptable to His Father. And in this sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices, wiping out a world’s sin, the cornerstone of this majestic new temple of God was laid. Cross and resurrection, a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense, but the one who hopes in the crucified and yet risen Lord shall NOT be put to shame. By His Spirit He has enlivened stone upon stone, person upon person, sins wiped out in His blood, His Spirit uniting hearts to Him in faith, and to each other in love, and so the temple grows in majesty through the centuries. Lives linked to the Savior’s undying life. One holy Church, the Body of Christ. You and me part of it.

And so to THIS temple, to this place, which is the inverse of Solomon’s temple. There, you remember, the holiest place was sealed off by the curtain and only with the blood of atoning sacrifice could the high priest ever enter, and only once a year, to obtain that forgiveness for which the people yearned. But behold the open arch. Behold heaven itself come down to you, born for you of the Virgin, crucified for you on the tree of the cross to cover your sin and pouring out on you in Baptism and through His Words the gift of the Spirit, building you into His house. And above all behold the altar. Have you missed it as much as I have this year? I think you have. Here the one offering that was upon the cross for the wiping out of the world’s sins, all yours and all mine, here it is ceaselessly given to us. The body and blood that opened heaven and made it our home again. In Solomon’s temple, yearning earth reached up to touch heaven. But here Holy heaven, with overflowing joy, gushes forth to touch earth.

Solomon’s temple could point forward to the age of grace and picture it in some ways. But it was nowhere near as great as this place, this beautiful place two miles north of Hamel IL where Solomon’s greater Son continues His temple building in your life. Here you may gather every week around the sacrifice of God’s Lamb and He, alive and never to die again, your Great High Priest delights to impart to you His Body and Blood that heaven and earth cannot contain and yet who was contained in the Virgin’s womb for you, on Calvary’s tree for you, and on this lovely altar and so in your mouths, in your hearts, in your lives.

A God who is everywhere is not much different than a God who is nowhere. But YOUR God is somewhere. He is here as He promises and it is He and His presence which is the true adornment that all the beauty and the art and the music proclaim. For you see, this truly is an awesome place. It truly is the house of God and the gate of heaven, because here is Your Jesus. For you. Amen.

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