Saturday, June 1, 2013

God's Pick-Up Point

Trinity Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes, MN
Waters of Grace Lutheran Church, Frazee, MN
Pentecost 2/June 2, 2013/Commissioning of Laurie Albertson, SAM
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

We’re right here, right now because that’s what Christians do.

Christians come together, meet at an appointed hour, rendezvous at a certain place, encounter one another person-to-person…and in so doing we meet the God who became a human person in Jesus of Nazareth.

Christians come to church to be church and “do church”…..even though “church” often gets a bum rap, nowadays.

Two weeks ago, on Pentecost Sunday, our family worshiped at Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill in St Paul.   During worship representatives of neighborhood ministries who share space in Christ Lutheran’s building offered greetings.

One of them was an African American pastor by the name of Sylvester Davis who works with a ministry called “Rock of Ages.”  Pastor Davis walks around his neighborhood meeting all sorts of folks who are skeptical about the church.

“Folks say to me:  I can be a Christian without going to church,” Pastor Davis shared with us.   “But I ask them—are you sure about that?   Are you sure that you can be a Christian without going to church?”

“Travelers who want to go somewhere  by bus—they meet at the bus station to get picked up, don’t they?   And people who plan to fly somewhere—they gather at the airport so’s the plane can pick them up—right?   Seems to me that if you want God to take you somewhere, the best place for God to pick you up is at church!”

As creatures of space and time, embodied souls who crave connections with others, we need to come together to figure out again just who we all are.   Andrew Root who teaches at Luther Seminary in St Paul says that persons ARE their relationships.   I am who I am only in relationship with you and who you are….and one of the best places I meet you is church, where God also regularly shows up—the same God who took on flesh and became a human person in Jesus Christ.

….which is why we set aside space and time so that creatures of space and time can find one another and be found again by God.

Our First Lesson for today is part of the dedication prayer of King Solomon, who built the first brick-and-mortar church building in the Bible—the great temple in Jerusalem.  

Solomon knew that God and God’s people had mixed feelings about whether this Temple should even exist.

Solomon realized that God isn’t going to ever “hang his hat” or permanently reside in any structure made with human hands.   God is too wild and free for that--which is why before Jerusalem’s Temple was built God mainly encountered the people of Israel in a Tent, a portable worship-space that could be folded, picked up and moved around like an Army M*A*S*H unit.

God refuses to be “boxed in,” which is probably why it took so long (20 years!) for Solomon’s Temple to be conceived, imagined, planned and constructed.

And when Solomon dedicated the Temple, the first line of his dedication prayer reminded everyone that God didn’t need the Temple they had created.  “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!” (I Kings 8:27).

God didn’t need the Temple, any more than God needs the church….but you and I do.  We need the church and we need to become the church for one another, because we’re persons related to one another and related to Jesus Christ the person in whom God meets us.

Moreover, the world—all our neighbors who aren’t church folks—the world needs the church, too, to be a point of encounter with one another and with God.   In the words of our First Lesson:  “when a foreigner comes and prays toward this [Temple]…, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.”  (I Kings 8:42-43)

Today, in this unfolding green season of Pentecost, we declare that being Christian and being church are one-in-the-same.   We give thanks for all the places and times God meets us in Jesus Christ….whether it’s at 1401 Madison Avenue in DL….or at the Frazee Event Center….or in over 4000 congregations of our companion synod, the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in India…or wherever else Christians meet and gather and re-connect with God and one another.

We take this church-thing so seriously that we keep planting churches, which is why we’re commissioning and supporting Laurie Albertson to invite and gather God’s people in Frazee so that Waters of Grace Lutheran Church might become another “Temple”—another touchpoint on earth where the God of heaven will show up and meet us, person-to-person, in Jesus Christ, and in the people Jesus Christ is pleased to call his church.

In the name of Jesus.   Amen.

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