Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

75th Annv of Cong/14th S Pentecost

  1. 75th Anniversary of OSLC 9.10.17 “No, to all of that…” I Kings 8:22-30

So, what is it exactly that we celebrate today, as we mark the 75th anniversary of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh NC? The pluckiness of our founding members? The good fortune of our community and congregation, outwardly? Our growth from a dozen people in a living room to what we are today, and the many thousands of lives this congregation has touched? I know, given multiple choice questions, you’re used to my very Lutheran “Yes!” to such questions. But today, I’m going to say an equally Lutheran (I think) “No!” to all of that…

The readings we have today (which are appointed by LSB’s lectionary for the anniversary of a congregation) are not easily applied, though I think Pr. Lineberger and I drew the long straws with the OT and Epistle readings which speak overtly of temples and congregations. Pr. Esget will have an interesting time showing how Zacchaeus, that wee little man (“which one are you? Happy? Sneezy? Doc!”?) up in his tree fits into a 75th anniversary celebration. I’m very much looking forward to his wisdom on this, at 4 pm this afternoon… 🙂

But I would say confusion reigns in the Old Testament lesson as well. Solomon really doesn’t know what he’s celebrating as he dedicates this magnificent temple he’s been 7 years a-building—because he doesn’t really understand the promise God made to his father David concerning His house. This is a great part of Scripture—a simple test, to see if you can read; and most fail it—even the Lutheran Study Bible editors don’t get it quite right, insisting Solomon building his temple was a good move, helpful… 🙁

David wanted to build a house, a temple for the Lord of Israel, a nice one. And God said “No, to all of that! Nice that you thought of Me, but, no… I will build you a house! Other way around! I will build it by your Son who will be Peaceful, and His throne will be forever, His house eternal, glorious in the heavens, and if He commits iniquity, I will punish Him with rods and stripes and cruel blows, but My mercy I will never take from Him. His House endures forever…” And who is God talking about, this temple-building Son of David? Solomon, right? His name after all, “Solomon”, means “Peaceful” and he built an awesome temple and was a rich and powerful king, who sinned, but God left a lamp in Israel anyway…

No. Totally and utterly no to all that! Everyone gives that answer, even the Bible that Studies Itself to Save You the Trouble. But it’s the wrong answer! Solomon’s given name was Jedidiah actually, David called him Solomon later, maybe after this prophecy, to try to force fit it into justification for building the temple David always wanted, even though God directed him otherwise. Quick! What’s the right answer to most questions in the catechism? Jesus! Yes, ding, ding, you’ve got it! Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the real One, who builds the everlasting Temple—only His Temple is no stone building we can see, but the very Body of Christ torn down on the cross and raised up by God on the third day. If you read this section of Kings and get that it’s all about Jesus, that Solomon’s temple is really a grand mistake, you win the gold medal in reading; and such reading will bless you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine, with a grandeur in this world, but not of it, that lasts forever, that builds you into the Temple that is the Body of Christ and shines brighter than the sun…

Since Solomon is confused about the promise of the the Kingdom, should we be surprised his theology of church and temple is similarly confused? We should not be. But we fail the reading test because we have this idea that everything the “good guys” in the Bible say is always divinely inspired and right, when, often, David, Solomon, and Peter are completely wrong in what they say. Perhaps, the purpose of your life is just to serve as a warning for others? Ever think that? David and Peter did, and found a path to repentance that seems closed to Solomon, for all his wealth and smarts… 🙁

Solomon is excited because he built a house in which he thinks God will dwell forever and since the house is next door to Solomon’s palace, he figures all his earthly glory and power and splendor and majesty will stand too. But it all gets torn down about 400 years later, shabbily rebuilt 70 years after that, then torn down for good, 40 years to the day after Jesus died on the cross. “Trust not in princes, they are but mortal/ Earthborn they are and soon decay/ Naught are their counsels at life’s last portal/ When the dark grave engulfs its prey…” as the old hymn goes.

It’s tempting to celebrate the recently renovated sanctuary that we and our fathers built. It’s tempting to celebrate the successes and wonderful daughter churches this congregation has started and all the ways the ministry that began so humbly, 75 years ago, at 1900 Glenwood, in the living room of that house, has expanded. But that would be to make Solomon’s mistake; and Solomon ended up an idolater and stranger to God’s Kingdom…

What do we celebrate today, then? That we have built with our wisdom and cleverness, our gold and silver, an exalted house in which God is pleased to dwell? No, to all of that! A hundred times, NOOOO!! We celebrate instead that God has built us into His house; and this building project, this continual renovation of ourselves, goes on still today by His Gospel Word and Sacraments. “Since mortal man no help affords/ trust ye in Christ our God and Lord!”

Our confusion about what the Church is; where her real glory lies, is perennial. A wise Lutheran soul, Hermann Sasse, wrote 70 years ago that 2 (mistaken!) views of the Church have dominated Christendom since the days of the 2nd century. The first view, Sasse calls “Social Contract Theory”, it sees the church (in Schleiermacher’s words) as a society of “reborn individuals joining together”.  Sasse scoffs: “They did not notice with this that they were reading a secular sociology, the theory of the Social Contract, into the New Testament. Never in the NT are we told that men are supposed to join a congregation. The church was always already there, and men were “added thereto”…” (Letters V1, pg. 188). The dozen that met at 1900 Glenwood in 1942 didn’t found or join anything. They were added to the Church of angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven that was always already there…

The second idea, the “Romantic/Organic” view, sees the church as a kinder, gentler version of the Borg Collective from Star Trek. We are assimilated into the New Order, members of a greater collective, losing our individuality in exchange for the infallibility that Newman and others believe belongs to the Collective Catholic Church of the East and West. Luther saw through this—knowing that the Church as a whole is no better than its least soul, her most fallible part; and yet, sometimes, as with Luther at Worms(!), the Church is found wholly (holy?) in one, lonely voice, crying in the wilderness, as with Elijah, at Sinai, in his cave…

The dozen at 1900 Glenwood in 1942 weren’t assimilated into some Catholic Collective. They were added to the Body of Christ; just so, the unique, individual personalities God gives us come fully into bloom, in Jesus, reflecting His glory, marvelously, throughout eternity, each in his or her own unique way. This is what we celebrate: that we have been “added thereto”—that God, by Gospel Word and Sacraments, by grace, through faith, has united us to Christ, forgiven all our sins, made us His own Body so Peace, surpassing understanding guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Services

22 October 2017

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.