The Temple, Jesus and Economics

A Sermon for Proper 16; 1 Kings 8:[1, 6,10-11], 22-30,41-43, Psalm 84 or 84:1-6, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

I have never been able to take advantage of opportunities to go to Israel, to see the land promised to God’s people, to walk the way of Jesus, and visit sites of the early disciples. If I do, I think I’d like Curtis to go with me. Curtis shares part of what such a visitor might experience. You might visit the Garden at Gethsemane, see the Upper Room, one or more of Lazarus’ tombs (it seems there are multiple sites make the same claim.) You can even go to Cana and visit the site of that infamous wedding where Jesus changes an enormous amount of water into stunningly good wine. You can even try some “Cana Wedding Wine.” A visitor once asked the tour guide Is the wine from the time of Jesus? The guide answered,

Yes, in fact, this wine is from the time of Jesus Christ because now is the time of Jesus Christ. He is not dead, he is risen.

We hear those words every time we gather and share Eucharist. It is unusual to hear them in ordinary conversation. It is disruptive but transforming

to think about our lives through our practice of sharing bread and wine during Holy Communion (Farr).


Now I expect, you expect me to share a gleaning from John 6; and I will; however, I am going to set that up, by exploring the dedication of the Temple we heard from 1 Kings.

The background to the Temple dedication is the end of the 11-year struggle, of painstakingly precise work, to build the Temple as instructed by God (Mast). The biblical background is Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 (26-27) tells us God created “humankind in God’s image” there are no limits to who is included (Galvin). Genesis 2 (18-22) tells us we are made to be in relationship with each other. Being a helpmate is not a hierarchal order. In Psalms (121:2, 124:8), God is referred to as our helper. The dedication

 is about the Temple and its place in the life of God’s people (Mast).

Solomon’s prayer has nine petitions that cover

  • difficult legal cases in which a person must make an oath (1 Kings 8:22)
  • various disasters that might befall the people of Israel
    • defeat in battle and subsequent exile (vv. 33–34);
    • drought (vv. 35–36);
    • famine, plague, or siege (vv. 37–40).
    • all of which is happening because Israel failed to walk in the ways of God, in short – sin, (1 Kings 8:22).
  • when a foreigner prays towards the Temple God will answer their prayers and that all the peoples of the earth would know God’s name and fear him (1 Kings 8:41-43)
  • victory in God’s cause (1 Kings 8:44-45)
  • if Israel pray towards the land, city, and temple seeking repentance while in exile God is asked to regard them once more as his people and maintain their cause. (1 Kings 8: 46-51)
  • and that God will hear the prayers of the people whenever they pray (1 Kings 8:52) (Gaventa and Petersen; Harrelson).

Solomon’s multipoint prayer is extraordinarily deep. It provides a way for everyone to seek the presence of God. It honors the divine promise that all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3) (Mast). It is honest about the reality that the heavens cannot contain God, therefore, the Temple cannot; making the Temple

 a place [in] which the needs of the petitioner coincide with the willingness of [God] to respond (1 Kings 8:22).

It is inclusive; although the first five books of the bible have a negative view of foreigners, aliens, and, strangers, the Temple dedication prayer welcomes the prayers of all who seek God, including foreigners (1 Kings 8:41-42). It is perhaps the first of the 36 verses that command us to “love the stranger” not including the one that commands us to “love our neighbor “(Almquist). This verse emphasizes human relationships established in Genesis (2:26-27). The Temple prayer is even more honest in acknowledging that people will be in desperate need of divine attention because of their sins (1 Kings 8:62). It is the source of hope that the LORD our God will freely forgive, and freely save. (1 Kings 8:62). Solomon’s is a prayer that seeks shalom for all God’s people, and all of creation.

And yes, there is a however. The entire prayer is conditional; if only your [people] are careful in all they do to walk before me.

You know the general flow of the Bible story. You know the people are not careful in all they do. What they and their Kings do was evil in the sight of the Lord. Therefore, they are defeated; they are exiled. Benjamin and Judah return to the land. The remaining then tribes are lost to eternity. The Temple is rebuilt; but the political and religious leaders continue to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD. It is into this void, a way to the presence of the Lord, that Jesus comes.

It is helpful to remember that the background of today’s reading from John 6 is the feeding of the five thousand beginning with verse 1, we read a few weeks ago. The biblical background is from Exodus when God provides Israel manna from heaven, and they grumble. If you recall when Jesus proclaims himself to manna, the crowd grumbles (Hylen). John builds on wisdom traditions

that the nourisher is both the … the giver of food and the food itself and the tradition of the pascal lamb,

but even after they eat their fill the

crowd cannot believe he is the bread from heaven and source of eternal life (Gaventa and Petersen).

You remember the emphasis in John’s version of the Last Supper is the washing if the disciples’ feet. John 6 is the equivalent to Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s Lord’s Supper, in that here we have the foundation of our Eucharistic traditions. John presents all of Jesus’ life as the institution of the Eucharist providing the miraculous gifts of actual food and God’s Word (O’Day). Like Solomon’s Temple prayer, John says that

participation in the Eucharist creates a relationship between Jesus and the believer (John 6:56) (Harrelson; O’Day).

Also like the Temple, that cannot contain God, access to the Eucharist belongs to Jesus and to Jesus alone. In the tradition of the Temple, priests make sacrifices, however the sacrifice is offered by the person, and God’s presence is the work of God. Priests and faith institutions may have responsibility

to ensure that believers are provided with opportunities to participate in the Eucharist, but it is Jesus’ presence, … that governs the Eucharist. (O’Day).

Both the dedication prayer for the Temple, and Jesus’ difficult teaching that the Spirit gives life, through our abiding with Jesus point to our need, to everyone’s need for the human divine relationship because, as our forebearers did, we still fail to walk before God. Our needs are far beyond the 9 petitions Solomon’s prayer makes. Individually and collectively we need the assurance of God’s life-giving presence; we need to trust in God’s presence; we need to build God’s presence into every aspect of our lives. We need a relationship with God, and each other, as we order our houses, as we order our lives.

And yes, there is more to the story. Somewhere along my way I learned that ‘economy’ comes from a Greek word that means ordering one’s house. I went digging around to check it out and learned that two words ‘oikos’ or ‘house and ‘nomos’ or rule together mean “management of house affairs;”  at a national level the managing of the nation’s household affairs or economics. (Bible Hub; Thomas Nelson Inc). Managing our nation’s household affairs or economics has recently been the subject of lots of discussion. Three articles I stumbled across this week (I just love the wisdom of the divine muse) may help us to envision the scope of this reordering work.

Louis Hyman writes that nature of work always remains a matter of social choice. Up until the 18th century, people worked where they lived. In the 19th century people were brought together to work under one roof, which sets up industrial revolution. After WWII higher profits were possible, but not as important, in the lingering wake of the Great Depression, as the moral compact between employer and employee. Beginning in the 1970s a new, strictly financial view of corporation emerges and begins severing the moral compact between businesses and employees. The shift to temp employees, which began at the end of WWII when Elmer Winter established the first temp agency, sets up technological revolution. Hyman continues

we need to create new norms, institutions and policies that make digitization benefit today’s workers (Hyman).

And I would add these new norms should be like the Temple, dedicated to providing a link to God for ALL people, and like Jesus who is the Way to God for ALL people.

In his review of R.R. Reno’s Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society Neil Dhingra notes Reagan declaration,

 We believe in the workingman’s toil, the businessman’s enterprise, and the clergyman’s counsel.

 He notes how this trilogy has come apart, that

our unbounded liberty has created a distorted reality that cruelly neglects those whose “destinies [are] largely fixed at birth. Our liberation from social norms — our nonjudgmentalism — has come at a very high cost to the working class and poor.

He continues

authentic freedom comes from service to one’s neighborhood and family, from being a good coworker or teammate, from doing those things that matter.

Then he asks,

What if there was a place where you could go where you could break bread and whoever you were sitting with was family? (Reno; Dhingra).

I wonder what if there was a place like the Temple was intended to be? What if there was a place like Jesus’ presence is intended to be? What if the Episcopal Church was always at the best we can be?

Bernard-Henri Lévy sets out the principle that being human involves some sort of negation, meaning we have to take a step, a leap out of the natural or established in order to grow  (Lévy). Such a natural or established order might well include our economic structure. He continues

When we … commit ourselves to moving forward, to diving into the unknown and embracing our humanity in all its uncertainty, then we embark on a truly beautiful and noble adventure — the very road to freedom (Lévy).

If our moving forward is in the presence of God in the Temple or of Jesus in the Eucharist, all sorts of possibilities emerge. We can be assured that we can rebuild an economic order envisioned in Genesis 1 and 2, just we can we be assured that we can buy a bottle of wine from the Wedding at Cana. Not because there are lots of old bottles, not because we are so clever at walking in the ways of God, but because He is not dead, he is risen, the time of Jesus Christ is right here, right now.


Almquist, Br. Curtis. Stranger – Brother, Give Us A Word. 22 8 2018.

FARR, CURTIS. “Gifts of God, Pentecost 14 (B).” 26 8 2018. Sermons that Work.

Galvin, Garrett. Commentary on 1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11] 22-30,. 26 8 2018. <;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel John 6:56-59. 26 8 2018.

Hylen, Susan. Commentary on John 6:56-69. 26 8 2018. <;.

Hyman, Louis. “It’s Not Technology That’s Disrupting Our Jobs.” The New York Times (2018).

Lévy, Bernard-Henri. “We Are Not Born Human.” New York Times 22 8 2018. web. <>.

Mast, Stan. “Old Testament Lectionary Text is: 1 Kings 8: (1-6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43.” 26 8 2018. Working Preacher.

O’Day, Dail R. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of John. Vol. VIII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.

Reno, R.R. “Freedom and Popular Culture.” 22 8 2018. <>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Seow, Choon-Leong. New Interpreter’s Bible The First and Second Books of Kings Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections (NIBC) 2 Samuel 24:18. Vol. II. Nashville: Abingdon Press (NIBC) Deuteronomy 34, 2015. Olive Tree App.



A Sermon for Proper 15; 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Psalm 111, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

23 years ago, I attended my first diocesan convention. As one of 8 newly ordained priest, among some 400 or so clergy, and uncountable lay delegates; I was a bit overwhelmed. Friday night our banquet speaker, a distinguished scholar I’d never heard of (which means nothing), got up to share an idea with some long and lofty title (I don’t remember). She began as expected, setting out her subject matter. Then she noted the usual conflicts and the unsatisfactory customary ways of dealing with them. Next was the introduction of some new possibilities. Then came the emphasis of her presentation walking through it all in greater detail. Only ~ as her presentation continues a significant word is all jumbled. The misspeaks increase. In a few minutes, you can hear a few rumbles of what sounds like laughter. Not long afterward, the misspeaks are more frequent and more obvious. In a few minutes, we are all guffawing at most sentences. It turns out our featured speaker, was a gifted misspeaking comedian.

Not all misspeaks are so obvious, or so humorous. Some are the results of the hears’ or readers’ lack of background knowledge. Some are harmless. Others can lead us astray.

This morning we heard, from 1 Kings, the story of Solomon succeeding his father David, as King of Israel. It was a controversial succession, with lots of lots of political intrigues. The Game of Thrones has nothing on 1 Kings. We hear how Solomon loves the Lord, and that he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places, though the ark was in Jerusalem (Seow).

Solomon speaks of how his father David, had walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness. We hear how God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah is fulfilled as Israel is so great a people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Solomon asks for an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil, on hearing that God agrees, and promises more: honors, riches, and long life.

At this point we all are thinking of King Solomon, the wisest king ever. But we may have forgotten that the Books of Kings are written in the tradition of the Book of Deuteronomy, which emphasizes steadfast love and covenant faithfulness between God and Israel. Israel is to worship in places the LORD chooses (Howard). The high places were mountain or hilltop sanctuaries where the Canaanites sacrificed to their gods (Harrelson). Though Gibeon has become a place of legitimate worship; but by worshiping in such high places Solomon and Israel walk a fine line between adapting local customs and observing their own unique religious and ethnic identity rooted in Yahweh (Keener and Walton).

By now the whole of the passage begins to sound a bit like the convention’s guest speaker. Did David, who started a rebellion, raped Bathsheba, killed her husband, lured his commander into the plot to cover his sin, walk in the ways of the Lord? You remember the Ten Commandments. You shall not murder, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor lie, nor covet, (Exo 20:1-17); David has covered them all.

Is Solomon walking before God in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness? The first thing the new king does, after he has murdered or banished all who had sought to be king and their supporters in the royal court, is to make a marriage alliance with the pharaoh of Egypt which is against the teaching of Deuteronomy that warns against “a return to Egypt” (Deut. 17:16)  (Gaventa and Petersen). Israel is offering sacrifices in places not of God’s choosing because Solomon has ignored dealing with important religious matters and has failed to build the Temple that would have solved the problem of people worshiping at local cultic sites (Gaventa and Petersen). He has also ignored the defense of the city, compromising the security of the nation, (1 Kings 3:1) (Seow).

In a divine dream, God asks Solomon What I should give you? (1 Kings 3:5) Solomon calls himself a little child which points to his modesty and lack of experience (Harrelson). His request for wisdom to rule, acknowledges that his rule so far has not been very good, and he needs a do-over (Gaventa and Petersen). It is a model of faith that first seeks the good of God’s kingdom, the just and proper rule of God’s people (Seow). This pleases God because Solomon is showing an interest in God’s people, not himself. (Gaventa and Petersen).

We can now see how Solomon is both undoubtedly great, and yet dangerously flawed. And though we should never assume anything he says or does should be an unquestioned model for life, we are also called to act in ways even as we pray to have those ways gifted to us through God’s generosity as Solomon did (Howard).

We did not hear verse 15,

Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem where he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. He offered up burnt offerings and offerings of well-being and provided a feast for all his servants. (1 Kings 3:15)

 which shows us the new king can be a devout servant of the Lord (Harrelson).

In a less combative political atmosphere, I might be tempted to explore how Solomon’s great and flawed ways are reflected in our political, social and economic life. However, that is not where the divine muse is leading me. Choon-Leong Seow writes

Neither Solomon’s legendary wisdom, … nor his … longevity, wealth, honor, and victory over his enemies, [are] due to his own righteousness. It is true that he loved the Lord, and it is true that he came before God with the proper attitude of humility. … [However] … it was God who came to Solomon first, despite the fact that the king had endangered the integrity of the kingdom by bringing it into alliance with Egypt. Solomon, [and], was slow to build the Temple and the defenses of the city (Seow).

In this way, Solomon’s story is my story, Solomon’s story is your story. Though we may never be so wise, or long-lived, or wealthy, or honored or victorious we are beloved of God. So beloved, that even as we only love God with some of our hearts, some of our souls, some of our mind and some of our strength, God still comes to me; God still comes to you, with open invitations. God responds to our imperfect love, our sincere if inadequate response, with undeserved blessings, summoning us, yet again, to love and to obey (Seow).

So, to borrow a phrase, in these evil days, in a time of misspeaks, both intended and the results of ignorance, let us love as wise people, trusting the LORD’s will, trusting in the eternal life of I AM the Living Bread, thankfully receiving Christ’s redeeming work, by which we seek first the good of all God’s kingdom and well-being of all God’s people.


Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Howard, Cameron B.R. Commentary on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. 19 8 2018. <;.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Seow, Choon-Leong. New Interpreter’s Bible The First and Second Books of Kings Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections (NIBC) 2 Samuel 24:18. Vol. II. Nashville: Abingdon Press (NIBC) Deuteronomy 34, 2015. Olive Tree App.


Speaking Truth to Authority

A sermon for Proper 13; 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a, Psalm 51:1-13, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35 

In a land reasonably far away, in a time farther and farther ago, I was part of the sales support team for a computer company. We had a well-respected local store system. We were introducing a larger system for large multiple store businesses, or warehouse businesses. We closed a deal with a mid-size multiple store operation. There was an implication that our multi-store / warehouse system would be available soon and they could upgrade getting almost full credit for the system they purchased. In the beginning, I was at the store every day. As they put each part of the software package into use and mastered its subtleties, I spent fewer days per week. After about a year or so, I would go see them about every two or three weeks.

Have you ever walked into a room, and sensed that something was wrong? As soon as I got in the door I knew trouble was in the air. The service counter staff, always friendly to anyone who came in the door, quietly made their way into the parts shelves. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a technician pulling some-sort of cable into all the front offices. When I saw the president, he waved me into his office. In a calm voice, he explained that they were exercising their option to return the entire system. I was confused; I believed everything was going well. It was – mostly. It turns out, the president had lost faith in the sales representative’s promises about the availability of the new multi-store / warehouse system. There was a difficult, but respectful conversation about some of those details. I did my best to confirm the installation in process was what they expected, and got assurances yes, those expectations were being well fulfilled. We said our goodbyes, and I left.

That night I decided I had to call not my sales partner, but our boss. I recounted the entire conversation. I included the customer’s saying he no longer believed the sales representative was reliable. After the date to uninstall the system was confirmed the conversation ended uncomfortably.

Later that night I got a call from my boss’s boss. To say he was not happy would be an understatement. He fired off several yes or no questions about the current status of the existing system, and what the customer had said to me. Then he lit into me about challenging the veracity of the sales rep. Not being able to interrupt the diatribe, I just listened. When it was over, I tried to explain all I sought to do, was to convey what the customer told me. There were a few more lines of unpleasantness, and the conversation came to an uncomfortable disrespectful end. I was glad the conversation was over. I was not happy. I did not feel secure. I knew I had done the right thing, but I didn’t feel good about it.

Speaking the truth to authority can be risky business. I did not set out to do so, nevertheless, I had. However, as uncomfortable as I was, I never felt as if I were in any danger.

I am not sure the same thing can be said about Nathan, God’s prophet serving David. Nathan knows how dangerous David can be. David had just raped the wife of one of his most loyal commanders. Then killed him after when the effort to cover up the tryst failed.

As you know, last week’s reading was the rape of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband. This morning we hear how David adds to the sin by marrying Bathsheba, for no other reason than to cover up his abhorrent act. You get a sense of what David is thinking because the story never calls Bathsheba by name, she is only “the wife of Uriah.” (Brooks). We also hear that David’s behavior displeases the Lord, the language used to describe Saul’s behavior, that leads to God’s decision to replace him as King over Israel. Nathan tells the parable story of a rich man with many flocks and herds taking a poor man’s sheep to feed a guest. The rich man takes the sheep just as David takes Bathsheba, from the one who loves her (Gaventa and Petersen). The rich man adds to his sin, by abusing the expected norms of hospitality, in offering the stolen lamb to his guest (Keener and Walton). David’s response is swift and harsh, though within the prescribed law. He does not yet understand that he is the rich man, that he is the king Samuel warned Israel about when they first asked God to give them a king (1 Samuel 8:11-19).

It is amazing how few words it takes to speak the truth. Nathen’s simple words You are that man. reveals a divine justice by which royalty and the powerful are judged; reveals a justice that values the powerless as much as royalty and the powerful (Birch). What follows describes the consequences of David’s sinful actions.

We are so used to thinking of prophets as foretelling the future, that, that is all we hear. A basic knowledge of Bible stories and last week’s sermon confirms that Nathan’s prophetic voice gets the future right. What we too often miss is Nathan’s courage in standing up to David’s power. Predicting the future is relatively easy. Speaking the unvarnished truth of evil in the service of power is risky. We must never discount Nathan’s risk.

We, as individuals, the church, and a society, must never discount the possibility that the speaking of truth to power will not be costly (Birch). There are many national martyrs, church saints, and people whose life story reminds us so.

David’s story does not end here. The transition to what is to come begins with a confession I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13). As prophets called to speak dangerously inconvenient truth, our goal is not judgment and condemnation, our hope is that by confession and repentance, life is possible in the face of death unleashed by sin (Birch).

We all have or will have the opportunity to speak the truth to authority, perhaps not the King, but to someone who has some sort of authority over you. We should remember authority is not always formal, it can express itself in the form of a relationship you value, such as belonging to the in-group it is advantageous to be accepted by, or a person you’d like to like you. The call to speak truth to authority is not a fight night card of the wholly righteous versus the un-redeemably wicked. In speaking the truth we must also be prepared to hear and acknowledge judgment of our own thoughts, words and deeds, done and not done, that contribute to taking, lying, murder, daring hypocrisy, insincere hospitality, or any anything else that contributes to breaking relationships between each other, as individuals or communities, between ourselves and creation, or between ourselves and God (Birch). We will have to decide what is more valuable, the truth or the authoritarian relationship.

Psalm 51 is often understood as David’s lament for his sin. The last three verses:

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, * and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence * and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again * and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

present a sort of plea for grace. This morning’s Gospel is an assurance of this grace. We have heard Jesus refer to himself as the source of living water (John4:1-26). We have heard Jesus call himself “I am” a connection to the unique God of Sinai (John 6:20). We have heard Jesus say “I am the bread of Life.”

When faced with speaking an inconvenient truth, we can be assured that living bread, water and the glory of God through the presence Jesus is with us always.


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Brooks, Gennifer Benjamin. Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a. 5 8 2018. <>.

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Hylen, Susan. Commentary on John 6:24-35. 5 8 2018. <;.

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O’Day, Dail R. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of John. Vol. VIII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.

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