“This Old House” – Sermon for July 19, 2015

Categories: Sermons

L28-ThessalonikiAltar-large

Altar area in the Church of the Rotunda of St. George in Thessaloniki, Greece

“This Old House”

A Sermon on 2nd Samuel 7:1-14a for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B; preached July 19, 2015, by the Rev. Matthew Emery, Senior Minister

 

What would you say if I told you that God has been planning for us for about 3,000 years? Would that seem a bit grandiose, a bit self-important? Like, yeah, right: God’s been thinking about little ol’ Storrs Congregational Church—you, me, all of us, here in this place in the year 2015—for some 3 millienia…? Like we’ve been some planned out, sketched out, prepared for—dare I say it, predestined—figure on God’s master blueprint for all these centuries…?

Perhaps that seems grandiose. Perhaps it seems self-important, to imagine that we are so significant that God not only takes notice of us, but has been doing so for 3,000 years. Perhaps for some of you, such a thought reeks a bit too much of a magical and magisterial understanding of how God works—you know, the Calvinists’ God of providence and utter sovereignty and predestination that most of us haven’t heard mainstream Congregationalists talk seriously about for a couple hundred years.

And maybe such a thought—that God has been waiting for us for 3,000 years—is those things: grandiose and self-important, too magical and too old-school religion. It may be all of those things, and yet it is also nevertheless true. God has, in fact, been waiting for us, planning for us, hoping and preparing for us all these years—at least ever since that night when Pastor Nate received a word to deliver to King Dave.

“Are you the one to build me a house to live in?” God asks about David through the word given to Nathan. ‘Well, you’re a bit mistaken there, King Dave,” is basically what God goes on to say. “Not only do I not need you to box me in with a house—there’s nothing wrong with this tent where I can move with the people—but it’s not about you building a house for me, anyway. I’m going to make you a house.”

By this point in the story—perhaps because David has achieved a measure of success, and things seem to be in a fairly good place—at this point David is getting caught up in what he himself can do. But ultimately, it’s not about what David can do—even what David can supposedly do for God. It’s about what God can do and is doing and will do, for David and through David.

I will make you a house, and raise up your heir, and establish his kingdom, his throne, the house he builds in my name. And it shall be established forever.

The temple and the palaces that David’s son Solomon built, however, no longer stand. There is no monarch in modern Israel. In fact, the line of Israelite kings after David came to an end more than 2,500 years ago when Babylon conquered Jerusalem and Judah and took the people into exile.

But I, for one, do not believe God to be a liar. There is, in fact, a son of David who has built a house for God’s name, a king from the house of David whose throne is established forever. As he walked along, blind men sat by the road as he passed and shouted “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”[1] As he entered Jerusalem the Sunday before his arrest, “The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”[2] And, of course, right as the telling of his story begins, we are told it is “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David.”[3]

As Christians, throughout the ages we have understood Jesus Christ—our Lord in whom God walked among us—as the fulfillment of that old promise to David, that promise that God would raise up from David the king whose throne would be established forever.

That one who God would raise up from David’s line, “he shall build a house for my name,” God told David. And you see… that’s where we come in. We, the church of Jesus Christ, have been a glimmer in God’s eye for a very long time, part and parcel of the promise made to the ancients. That’s not to say that God doesn’t have other houses, or hasn’t made other promises. In other words, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that God’s choosing or electing of us, the Christian church, is in any way to the exclusion of others. We can know that we are the fulfillment of God’s promises and plans with out assuming that there aren’t also other ways God fulfills them, or even that there aren’t other promises and other plans.

Nevertheless, I say it again: we are the ones God has been waiting for, planning for, hoping for, over all these millennia. Not us, the people of Storrs Congregational Church uniquely and alone, but us—and, yes, us specifically—as part of this house that Jesus Christ has built and continues to build for the glory of God’s name, this house known as the Christian Church.

I know that a lot of us in this church, and in churches like ours, have trouble with that old sentiment that supposedly “God has a plan for our lives.” It seems a little too much like magical thinking, like somehow we are simply automatons at the mercy of God’s remote control. Moreover, it really leaves us hanging when tragedy or evil strike—like, really, was that somehow part of God’s plan? And what does that say about God?

But it is something different, I think, to know that we are part of God’s plan for the world. To remember, for instance, the covenant promise to old father Abraham, that God was blessing him so that he and his descendants would be a blessing to others and the world—blessed in order to bless. Or to realize that, when we speak of God’s salvation, it’s not so much that we are being saved from something, but rather that we are being saved for something.

It’s a joyful and honor-filled thought, I think, to realize that we are a part of what God is up-to in the world. But it is a humbling one, too. After all, as the activist and author Marianne Williamson once wrote, and as Nelson Mandela once quoted, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And as God’s chosen, elected, and called forth ones, a blessed part of God’s fulfillment of promises old and new, then indeed we are powerful beyond all measure. After all, as Paul testified to the Ephesians, God is the one “who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”

In particular today, when we as a congregation gather together in a little while to do some dreaming, some discerning, some planning, let us remember that wonderworking power of God that is seeking to use us as part of God’s mission in the world. Let us remember that our calling in this place is not to build up a house for God, like David thought he should do. Our calling is to know ourselves sheltered in the house that Jesus Christ builds. Our calling is to root ourselves in that solid foundation. Our calling is to be the fulfillment of God’s long-standing plan to bless the world.

God’s been planning this old house for 3,000 years now. Let’s open our hearts and our lives to God’s blueprint for this world, and with eagerness seek after what God wants to build.

 

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God, now and forever. Amen.

 


 

[1] Matthew 20:30; see also similar in Matt. 9:27 and 15:22.

[2] Matthew 21:9.

[3] Matthew 1:1.

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