Biblical Words 
I Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11),
22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84;
The House of the Lord is honored as the house of prayer, but in time a faithful remnant finds a new holy center.
I Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43.
The prophetic reading presents the
highpoint of the Biblical presentation of King Solomon – the dedication of
In general, the language used of temples in the ancient Near East made them the “houses,” the dwelling places, of the deities, and this is the language used of the Jerusalem Temple.
The building (described in I Kings 6-7) was that of the private residence of a mighty lord. It had a great front porch set off by two massive pillars, the only part of the temple seen by ordinary people (that is, non-priests). Beyond that porch it had a main hall with upper windows, multiple lampstands, a food table, and an incense altar, all forming the main reception hall of the lord.
But deep inside was a totally dark inner-most throne room where the god himself stayed and from which his “glory” might glow forth on special occasions. Built into the walls around this temple structure were three stories of rooms used for stocks of supplies, for treasuries, and for the administrative work of the household staff (the priests).
Out in the large front court was the slaughter site with elaborate bronze equipment for butchering, processing, and burning animals brought as offerings to the lord of the house.
The opening of I Kings 8 refers to
the ceremonies by which the Lord took possession of this house as his
residence. God’s own presence is
represented by the ark of the covenant, and when it moved into the inner-most
chamber, there was a great glow, shrouded in a bright cloud but so intense that
the priests could not be near it (verses 10-11). The holy Lord, in all God’s glory, has come
to abide in the
Solomon’s first words declare that
this is God’s house (following the Greek text, translated in the
This is the faith of the old
mythic age, when gods occupied actual space on earth, even if that space
always represented a heavenly reality.
But Solomon’s dedicatory prayer
goes further and presents another perspective on the
“Will God indeed dwell on the
earth? Even heaven and the highest
heaven cannot contain you [O Lord], much less this house that I have built”
(To leap ahead to a dramatic and
deadly example, see the speech of the martyr Stephen in
A striking thing about Solomon’s
benedictions and prayer is that nothing is said about sacrifices. Fundamentally, in the old days the
Some typical moments of
severe human crisis (including exile from the land) are enumerated with the
request that God forgive and save those who pray toward the
And yet, with or without
And the holiest place in
The Psalm for this Sunday is a
poignant expression of love for the
The bene Qorah (“Of the
Korahites” in the heading), the guild of singers to whom this psalm belonged,
were apparently devoted to the
It has been suggested (by E.M.
Poteat, Exposition in The Interpreter’s Bible) that three attitudes
Secondly, there is the pilgrim who
comes from a distance, his heart set on seeing God in
And thirdly, there is the soldier
or militia person on duty out on the borders (or, these days, in the very
streets of the
So multifarious are those who hope
and pray toward Solomon’s
The Epistle reading, our last one from the letter to the
Ephesians, directs our attention to the warfare of faith,
a warfare waged with enemies more unseen than seen. “For our struggle is not against enemies of
blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the
cosmic powers of the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in
the heavenly places” (verse 12,
The imagery suggests that this is a defensive battle; there is strong emphasis on “standing,” or perhaps it is “holding the line”! “…so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…” (verse 11); “so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (verse 13).
This standing up to the dark powers requires the armor (panoplia) of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, running shoes for delivering good news, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the speech (rhema, not logos) of God (verse 17).
But perhaps the most important component of the believer’s defense against evil is prayer: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication” (verse18). The Apostle asks particularly that they pray for him, “so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (verses 19-20).
The Apostle brings a challenge to the ones God would call, a challenge to stand firm as the spiritual defense force against evil.
The Gospel reading dwells on the aftermath of Jesus’ lengthy discourse about the Bread of Life. The sequels to the discourse force the hearers, including the disciples, to choose whether to stay with Jesus or to go away from the paradoxes and mysteries of his revelation and his offer of communion.
A progressive scandalizing of his
Judean hearers has unfolded, and in this last development, Jesus’ own disciples
have become divided and many leave him.
The Judean leaders had already separated themselves from this
sacramental mystification saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
To these doubting disciples Jesus
reinforces the distinction between the realm of the spirit and the realm of the
flesh, an emphasis introduced in his dialogue with Nicodemus (3:6). “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh
is useless. The words that I have spoken
to you are spirit and life” (verse 63,
There is a point at which the reality of the dimension of Spirit is real, or it is not – or is not yet. Those who come to know that reality of Spirit through Jesus’ speaking (“the words that I have spoken”) experience (eternal) life.
But, if the language of sacraments is hard, how about the language of ascension? “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (verses 62). Those who come to this experience are the ones who “see” the Son of Man ascending to the Father, and this experience inaugurates the guidance of the Spirit among those who belong to Jesus (see -13).
The crisis of doubt reduces the
disciples to “the twelve,” who are mentioned in John only in this
passage and at . In response to Jesus’ challenge to them – to
the effect, “Aren’t you leaving too?” – Peter makes his confession, in its
Johannine version (compare
Starting with five thousand hearers, plus their dependents, Jesus’ circle has shrunk to twelve – and “one of you is a devil” (verse 70). These will remain as witnesses after his death brings new meaning to eating his flesh and drinking his blood.