On the north coast of Scotland at Thurso stands the Castle of Mey, a castle that used to belong to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. If you went to the village near the castle the villagers would tell you about an old man called Tom who owned the village garage. He would tell you how the Queen Mother would come to her castle every summer.
While she was there, she always visited the garage to say hello to Tom. She also paid visits to several elderly folk living in small cottages nearby. All the villagers looked forward to the Queen Mother’s visits. They loved her and would tell visitors about her coming to see them. The Queen Mother honoured those people by gladly going into their homes that were opened to her as a mark of honour to her.
God is so much greater and yet he honours us by being present with us.
This morning we are here to remember and honour those who gave their lives in times of war. They gave everything so that the generations to come would live in peace and freedom. Their sacrifice is what we have come to remember but we are also focussing this morning on God’s promise to be with us through the good times and the bad. Jesus told his disciples that there would be wars and rumours of wars but he also promised that he would be with us until the end of time.
But we have to be careful to avoid the misunderstanding that God can somehow be confined in a building, whether it is Solomon’s Temple or Glenorchy URC. Solomon wrote in 1 Kings 8: 27, ‘But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven cannot contain you. How much less this Temple that I have built!’
The cloud of God’s presence descending on the Temple in verses 10-11 should encourage us that ours is a God who loves to be with his people and when he comes, his presence can change everything.
Solomon sent out a huge amount of invitations to the grand festival opening of the temple that he had built for the Lord in Jerusalem. The elders were invited, the heads of the tribes of Israel, the chiefs of the Israelite families and they were to bring up the Ark of the Lord’s covenant. They all arrived at the set time which was in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month.
When the Ark was brought in by the priests and the Levites, a cloud filled the temple just as it had earlier filled the tabernacle in the desert. This was the visible symbol of God’s presence. The Temple was where God lived among the people. The Lord lives in heaven but he makes his presence known to his people on earth. Though he is awesome and majestic, God is not remote, but near. John tells us in his gospel that Jesus came to live among ordinary people, he came to tabernacle among us.
Solomon praised God because he had kept his promise. He knew God was too great for the building to contain him. The Temple was a place of prayer and Solomon asked God to hear prayer and forgive the people. Like Solomon and the people, we need God’s forgiveness and intervention. It is not that the place where we worship is important, but that those who love God should worship him together, so there has to be a meeting place. It might be a school, a church, a house or in some countries a tree. Also in these strange times it can be through technology and zoom!
Solomon and the people united in celebration, God is faithful. They wanted to worship God and he was pleased to make his presence known.
Revelation 3: 19-22 assures us that God through Jesus wants to come into our lives, just as he entered the new temple of Solomon.
Verse 20 says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me. Jesus wants to begin a relationship with us, he just needs our permission to come into our lives. He is not restricted to the front of a church or temple, he is far more interested in being in our lives and hearts.
The Israelite nation celebrated when the Ark was brought into the temple. In the same way we should celebrate that God’s Spirit is here with us this morning and is eager to stay with us.
We are remembering all those who gave their lives for our freedom today. May we also remember our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for our freedom and forgiveness from all our sins, to give us new a new life here on earth and everlasting life when we go to be with our Lord.
May this be a place that God wants to be, a place where he is worshipped and honoured and obeyed. May it also be a place of joy and celebration as we worship him together as his people, Amen.