This is a little risky for a preacher to do but I’m going to ask it anyway. Is there anyone here today who has been here in worship the past twelve Sundays? That dates all the way back to June 10th. Proudly raise your hand if you have been here all of these Sundays since June 10th. I have a gift I want to give to you. I personally don’t qualify because I was away for two of those Sundays. (Hand Out Gifts)
I just want to thank you for your commitment to weekly worship attendance because that’s not easy to do during the summer months. But not only that. You also have survived the longest sermon series I have ever preached in my pastoral ministry.
During these past twelve Sundays, we have focused on the life of David from the Old Testament. When I first thought of possibly dedicating a whole season of the year looking at this one individual, I was worried that it would be a little too much. I was also worried that I would run out of things to say each week. But what I found was that so much more could have been said and covered about this one man.
So here we are. The final Sunday. And I need to wrap things up. The focus last Sunday as well as today isn’t so much on David but on his son, Solomon. And in today’s scripture reading from I Kings, it’s all about Solomon dedicating the new Temple in Jerusalem. Even though David has died, his name appears three times in our reading for today. Three times.
The first time is when we are reminded that another name for the city of Jerusalem is “City of David.” If you remember, David had bravely claimed the city of Jerusalem as the new capitol for the people of Israel after he had taken it from the Jebusites.
The second time David’s name is mentioned is in Solomon’s dedication prayer when he refers to a covenant that God had made with David. And the third time David’s name is mentioned is when Solomon refers to David as his father in his prayer.
David’s not even around anymore and yet so much about this story of Solomon dedicating the new Temple won’t let us forget the critical role David played during these glory years of Israel.
In one of the community’s I served as pastor, I became friends with a Church of Christ pastor who had served as a pastor of his church for over 25 years. He retired from his church during my time in the community.
At his retirement, I paid him a high compliment when I said, “Pete, when people refer to my church, they say the Methodist Church on North Detroit Street.’ But when people refer to your church they say, ‘That’s Pete Cramer’s Church.’” I said to Pete, “When the church is identified by the name of the pastor, you know that you’ve had some staying power.”
Solomon may be King, but this is still called the city of David.
Long before the Temple actually got built, it was David’s idea. The Temple was David’s biggest dream. He so wanted to build this Temple especially since all of the nations surrounding him had temples for their gods. Plus, it didn’t seem right that he was living in a luxurious palace while the Lord was without a permanent dwelling place. But the Lord did tell him that a day would come when a Temple would be built, just not during his lifetime.
You know, the truth is that we don’t always get to see the results of our deepest longings and dreams in our lifetime. They come after us and sometimes when we’re long gone. This is definitely true about the life of David. He didn’t get to see his dream of a Temple for the Lord and he also experienced his share of broken relationships and disappointments in his lifetime.
Sometimes we put David on a pedestal and forget that in many ways, he was like us. Not everything comes together as we envision and we wonder if we’re really making a difference.
As I’ve been thinking about this scripture of Solomon dedicating the new Temple in Jerusalem, I thought about how Temple University in Philadelphia was founded. Penny and I were students at Temple University during my junior year in college.
Its name is Temple, not because of any direct Jewish connection, but because of Temple Baptist Church. And the story goes like this:
A sobbing little girl named Hattie May Wiatt stood near Temple Baptist Church, a small church from which she had been turned away because it “was too crowded.” “I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.
A couple of years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribbled in child-like handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.” For two years she had saved for this offering of love.
When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.
But the story didn’t end there! A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a Realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth thousands of dollars. When told that the church didn’t have that kind of money, the realtor offered the land for 57 cents. Church members were so moved by this act of generosity that they made large financial donations. Checks came from far and wide.
Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum especially for the early 1900s. The little girl’s unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300 and Temple University with a student population of almost 40,000. Drive by Good Samaritan Hospital and the Temple Baptist Church Sunday School building which provides plenty of room, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside to learn about Jesus.
In one of the rooms of this building there is a picture of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Next to her picture is a portrait of her pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell.
David wanted to build the Temple during his lifetime, but it wasn’t until his son, Solomon built it that his dream was fulfilled where all of God’s people from near and far could come together for worship. We don’t always know what a difference our dreams and our gifts make, but this story of Solomon and the Temple remind us that God is faithful.
We have a temple like building, don’t we? What a beautiful church building we have. This has been a place where so many people have experienced God’s love and grace over the years.
In one of the churches I served as pastor, we celebrated our 200th anniversary just like this church did eighteen years ago.
We had a special bicentennial worship service that included several old church pictures that were put into a bicentennial video presentation.
After that very inspiring worship service, one of our long-time church members came up to me crying. And with tears streaming down her face, she said with a quivering voice, “When I saw my children who are now all grown in several of those video pictures during the service, I was so thankful to God that they grew up in a church like this where they experienced God’s love.”
This is why we build Temples, right? That’s why we exist here on South College Street. We are here to help people experience God’s love. We are here to be a haven of blessing and peace for all who enter this building.
David’s dream wasn’t just that a Temple would get built for God someday. David’s dream was that more and more people would come to know God’s faithfulness and love.
This is why in our scripture reading for today, David’s son, Solomon concludes his dedication prayer with these words, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people of Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”
The famous archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple once said, “The church exists for the people who are not already in it.” The reason why we have this Temple is to share God’s love with the people in our community.
One Sunday morning after worship, a ten year old came up to me with her friend who was about the same age. “Pastor Robert, I want you to meet my friend. I brought her to church with me.” And she went on to tell her friend about one of the stories I shared in a recent sermon. I looked at her grandmother who was standing close by and she said, “She doesn’t miss a thing.”
This ten year old gets it. She knows that our Temple is here for the people who are not already in it. She knows that God loves her and she shares that love with her friends.
Solomon’s dedication of the Temple is a good ending for our summer series on the life of David. David’s dream came true.
But David’s biggest dream wouldn’t be fulfilled until several hundred years later when through his lineage, God sent Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. Through Jesus, we can receive forgiveness from our sins, hope for our future, the promise of eternal life, and the strength to be the people God has called us to be.
Because of Jesus, the unthinkable becomes thinkable. The impossible becomes possible. We can make a difference because God looks at our heart, not at our height. We can battle giants with a single sling. We can grieve with hope because God comforts us. We can claim this community for God. We can dance because the victory has been won. We can receive forgiveness from our sins. And we can dream big and reach the world for Christ.
All of this is what the life of David teaches us us.
I think of all of the dreams and longings that are in our hearts as we worship together this morning. So many dreams. I can even see the little thought bubbles over each of your heads out there. OK, I really can’t, but I can use my imagination.
I can see that you have dreams like…
“I want to grow closer to God.” “I want more people to know of God’s love.” “I want to serve others.” “I want my life to have meaning and purpose.” “I want to use my gifts and resources to be a blessing to others.” “I want to serve in a new way.” I want to make a difference in the world. “I want to find my career path.” “I want to have a good semester.” “I want to meet new friends.” “I want to make a positive difference in how I live my life.”
All of these dreams and so many more that could be mentioned.
Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the new Temple was also a dream, a dream for God’s house to be a place of blessing for all who would come.
When our church building cornerstone was dedicated back in 1957, the congregation had a Solomon like dream as well. Their dream was expressed in a prayer from that dedication ceremony held on April 28, 1957. The prayer was, “O God, baptize your church afresh in the life-giving spirit of Jesus!”
May this dream continue to be fulfilled through you and me.
The Life of David: A Dream Fulfilled
Small Group Discussion Questions
I Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43
August 26, 2018
Today marks the conclusion of our twelve-week summer focus on the Life of David. In today’s scripture, David’s son, Solomon dedicates the Temple in Jerusalem. Even though David has died, his name is mentioned three times in this scripture passage since the building of the Temple was something David had envisioned years earlier.
When those first Methodists who started our church back in 1800 started meeting, what dreams do you think they had for their new church? Have their dreams been fulfilled at least partially? How so?
Solomon’s dedication prayer of the new Temple includes a strong emphasis on God blessing all people including those who are outside of the Jewish faith. This is similar to what the famous archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple once said, “The church exists for the people who are not already in it.”
How do you see our church or the greater church in general living out Solomon’s prayer for the Temple to be a blessing to all people and not just the people who are already in it?
This story of David’s dream for a Temple to be built for God someday reminds us of the importance to have dreams and to not give up on our dreams if they will help us to be the people God wants us to be and if they help our community and world to be a better place.
Share a dream that would like to see fulfilled one day.
Pastor Robert shared a line from a prayer that came from the dedication ceremony of our current church building which was held on April 27, 1957. Allow this prayer to be your prayer especially as we begin a new school year.
O God, baptize your church afresh in the life-giving spirit of Jesus!