August 2024


Sent Out to Live

Worship with Rejoicing

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

If you got to last week and thought that must be the last week of this series since it focused on benediction—SURPRISE! The benediction isn’t the end of worship—nor is it the end of this series—because worship does not end when the gathered Body of Christ disperses.

We’ve come to an end. “End of what,” you ask. Well, first, the end of this too long summer series where people are in and out, on vacation and traveling and only partly present. Or maybe, preacher, you managed to captivate the gathered body with this story of kings and choices—good and bad, mostly bad, it seemed at times. Maybe everyone has been perched on the edge of their pew waiting to see how it all comes out, how it ends. Well, here, at last, is the ending.

What other ending have we come to this week? The temple has been built; this is the dedication of that grand and glorious enterprise. If you can remember way back when we began this series, it started with David moving the Ark of the Covenant. And his dancing. Remember? David danced before the Lord, and everyone was moved by his passion and his joy. Well, almost everyone. That’s the thing about dancing; not everyone gets it; not everyone joins in. There are some who sit on the sides and complain, who are embarrassed, who just don’t get it. And you can respond by stopping the dance and going to sit on the side to save embarrassment. Or you can keep dancing. David kept dancing. And we watched him dance. He danced in his new house and his desire to house God. He danced with Bathsheba, even though she was not on his dance card, and he began to miss a step here and there; he began to show signs of strain in his dancing. He danced with his son, Absolom, though those steps began to falter. But it is hard, as the hymn says, to dance with the devil on your back. But we danced too. We saw the joy, and we wept with the brokenness; we experienced the blessing, and we acknowledged the sin. We danced, or sat, or leaned into this powerful story that is both not ours and ours at the same time. We too wanted to find a way to house God, maybe in our buildings, but mostly in our lives, in our hearts and souls so that God shines through in everything we do and all that we say.

And now we come to an end. As does Solomon. But Solomon doesn’t dance at the completion of the task of building this temple. We skipped over the detail captured here in 1 Kings about how the temple was built. We skipped over the choosing and cutting of the wood, the carving of the stone, the pounding of the gold, all for the purpose of making the most glorious house that could be imagined for the most glorious God they knew. Solomon doesn’t dance, as far as we can tell, as he stands before the people. Oh, maybe there was some nervous shuffling around when the smoke filled the newly built structure. Read the parenthetical verses in our assigned text this week. There isn’t much, but a couple of glimpses of the culmination of the story, bringing it full circle as the ark is moved to this place of residence. And then a couple of verses about how God responded to finally being home. Verses 10 and 11 tell us that God moved in and pushed everyone out for a bit. The cloud came and was so thick that the ministers couldn’t minister, it says. Maybe God needed a moment to relax, to kick off the divine footwear and massage the holy toes a bit before putting on the public face and joining the ceremony outside the holy of holies. And it seemed like Solomon smiled at this and nodded to God relaxing in that private space, saying, “I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell forever” (1 Kings 8:13 NRSV), and then he pulled the door closed as he bowed out or moved the thick curtain over the radiant space and moved back to continue to proceedings.

But Solomon didn’t dance as David danced. No, Solomon prayed. Last week, we listened as God and Solomon engaged in a conversation during the darkness of the night. It was a private prayer, a private hope, a request for wisdom. And now, many years later, we stand at the end of this particular journey, and we listen in on a public prayer, an invitation to live as though God dwelt in the neighborhood. That’s what this prayer is about, really. It is addressed to God, but it is a witness before the people. In the prayer, Solomon expresses what is on each mind, we might assume, that the very idea that God would take up residence near us, next door, in this grand, purpose-built temple, yes, but also anywhere. How can any earthly thing contain the immensity of God? It staggers the mind, to be sure. But that is the promise. That is the hope. We are not alone. And therefore, we live every day in worship.

The implication of this staggering realization is that everything we do, our whole lives, is an act of worship. We are in the presence of God always. When the service ends, and we head out into the sunshine or the rain we left behind, worship continues. When we wake on Monday, ready to head into whatever occupies our time and our energy, worship continues. In the midst of the emails and the texts, in the meetings and lectures, and the meetings that could have been emails and the lectures that were paragraphs from the assigned readings, worship continues. In the encounters with neighbors and authorities, in answering the incessant questions from the children in our care, in navigating the jumble of emotions as we live in community and relationship, worship continues. That’s what Solomon’s prayer says. That’s how each gathered worship experience concludes. That’s the lived reality of the people of God, the blessing and the burden of worship, the joy and repentance, the praise and humbling hearing of the word, worship continues.

Our text, by picking up parts of the prayer (and why not just read the whole thing?) reminds us that this reality is true for those who claim to be a part of the people of God. But it is also true for those who don’t yet know God, or who have rejected God or the God who was presented to them. It is true in a way that little is true these days. And our job is not to force worship on anybody, but to live and worship in such a way that there is a draw. There is an attraction, an invitation, a fresh expression of grace and glory in living such a worship-led life. When we follow the worship flow, we are then sent out to live a life of worship.

Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.

In This Series...

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes