by Ray Gentry
1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13
Then Solomon said,
‘The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
I have built you an exalted house,
a place for you to dwell in for ever.’
The end of this week’s text sticks out to me. My brain fixates on it because I think that my church building was designed and constructed with the attitude of Solomon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely building; I’m just not sure it’s gonna be here forever, though I'm fairly certain it was designed and built to be. I feel fairly confident saying that because the temple Solomon built didn’t even survive for 500 years.
Reformation Sunday seems a fitting day for this text. The Reformation, in it’s most idealized sense, confronts the certainty in our faith both personally and institutionally. Where would we benefit from a little humility that our theology is less a perfect understanding of the divine and more a lens of our time?
Solomon’s temple didn’t turn out to be the Lord’s dwelling place forever. What sacred temples have we constructed both literally and figuratively? Are we so invested in what the church was and is that we can’t see what it can be? Or what it needs to be?
An argument against change that I often hear is that we don’t want to change with the whims of society or culture. This argument usually presented as if the church of the 1400s or 1950s wasn’t shaped by the world around it. Perhaps part of this hesitation is sheer weight accompanying the idea that God is still speaking to us and that the our understanding of the Gospel is still growing. There’s comfort in telling ourselves that the understanding we came to about how the Spirit works in the world has already been figured out.
2000 years ago Jesus called out the comfortable life the religious and powerful had made for themselves. 500 years ago Luther stood up to the hierarchy of the Catholic church. 60 years ago Martin Luther King Jr stood up to a nation that bathed its prejudice in religion. How much of our comfort and security are we willing to risk to truly advocate on behalf of those on the margins?
The spirit of the Reformation (which requires no allegiance to the specific ideas of reformers past) is to stand up to the injustices of the Empires in which we find ourselves. It is to unmask systems that perpetuate violence and oppression agains the weak on behalf of those in power not to try to establish a permanent monument to our current understanding of God.