Where is God in all this?

23 August 2009
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16B (RCL)

1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10, 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

[That’s one of the five questions, by the way]. These are rich lessons this week. How to distill from them a sermon?

Solomon pulls off a daring shift in theology. Up until Solomon, God had been a god of war. The ark lived in a tent, always ready to decamp to the battlefield. The Tent of Meeting was always at the center of the “camp.” The poles made it possible to carry it out to battle, and the story surely shows it being used this way. Now, all of sudden, we pray to God at the Temple during drought, famine, plague and the like. The ark is settled permanently. It no longer goes out to battle. That’s a huge shift.

Ephesians certainly captures the imagery of war: the whole armor of God. But, our struggle is with cosmic forces, not armies. So, does the author of Ephesians imagine an ark-like presence of God within a mobilized community? We are to fight the “cosmocrators” of the world, a reference to the Caesars of the world. Certainly subversive.

And more bread and wine. John tells us that whoever drinks the blood of the Human Being has life. Jesus dwells in that one, and that one in Jesus, just as the living father sent him, and he lives through the father, so that one will live through Jesus. Startling language in several regards. First, just the cannibalistic aspect is shocking. But beyond that, the blood: The institution of sacrifice as described in Leviticus prevents the use of blood. Blood belongs to the deity, because blood is life, and all life, all life is God’s. So, we are to drink the blood (the life) of the deity. So, we are the deity.

After changing water in to wine, John reports no long discourse of Jesus. All the other “signs” in John’s Gospel get a discourse. This one, instead, is followed by the Temple Act. Jesus, when asked by what authority he does these things, says, “Destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” Jesus’ body replaces the Temple. John’s community replaces the altar, where the blood is poured. Note that the sign of water to wine takes place at Capernaum, and we are told Jesus delivers this discourse teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

The community, then, is the presence of God in the world, both for battle against the forces of evil, and for prayer at the Temple. Solomon invokes God’s name over the Temple, so that when people pray at the Temple, God will hear in heaven. If we are the altar, then when people entreat us, God hears in heaven (or in our midst). That’s an awesome responsibility. What we bring to God is what gets brought to God.

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