For you O Lord Almighty, the God the Israel, have made this revelation to your servant saying, "I will build you a house." 2 Samuel 7:27
One of the most basic desires of every person is to have a place of his own, a place that he can call home. For two centuries this made America a beacon of hope for the world. It was the place where, if a person was willing to work hard, he could have a share of the American Dream. But in the last five years the American Dream has turned into a National Nightmare. Large swaths of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure, while countless others have watched the value of their most prized possession sink so far under water that, in actuality, they are nothing more than glorified renters.
But as troubling as this might be it is not a new story. The history of man is the history of “building up and tearing down,” just like Solomon says in Ecclesiastes (3:3). We are currently in the latter phase of the proverb both nationally and ecclesiastically. Everything our forefathers worked so hard to build is slipping through our fingers like water, and much to our astonishment we are powerless to stop it.
That being the case we have good reason today to learn anew the wisdom of the 127th psalm where King David writes, “Unless the Lord build the house they who build it labor in vain.” David wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he also knew them to be true from personal experience. We learn in today’s Old Testament lesson that it was his great desire to build a house for God. A holy place where the Lord would dwell in the midst of His people in order to defend them against all danger, and give them rest from the many enemies that hounded them. But God had a different plan in mind, to build a house for David, and build it He did! He established David as King of Israel and gave him victory over all his enemies. He made him wealthy, powerful and respected by all the people both far and near. He also gave David wives and concubines, children and descendants, and every good thing that his heart desired, but because of the sin that clings to us so closely, things didn’t always turn up roses for David. Like every other house, his too was a series of ups and downs, laughter and tears, blessings and curses. He had marital difficulties, rebellious children and more than a few enemies who would have liked nothing better than to attend his funeral. Not only this, but in many cases David was his own worst enemy. Thinking himself untouchable he started an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah his most loyal officer, and then arranged to have Uriah killed in battle to cover his tracks. But in so doing, David brought untold misery down upon himself and his house.
It was exactly for this reason, because of sin’s awful sway and ghastly consequences, God built another kind of house for David as well. He pledged that in the fullness of time He would give David a Great Descendant! A Mighty King of Israel who would be both David’s Son and David’s Lord, and whose singular mission it would be to conquer sin, defeat death, and to rid the world of its curse forever. Jesus accomplished all these things for us by His life, death and resurrection; and He distributes salvation’s blessings to us in another house known as: the one, holy, Christian and apostolic church. This is true temple, the house of the living God which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone, and we the “living stones” made alive by Jesus Himself.
The church is never formless or void, so God has always provided His people with earthly sanctuaries, holy houses, where they can come to commune with Christ through the Word and Sacraments, and graciously obtain pardon for all of their sins. He provides us with churches that train us to conduct spiritual warfare, not warfare against flesh and blood like Muslims do, but against the principalities and powers of evil, against sin and temptation, and against spiritual wickedness in high places. Churches that equip us with the full armor of God: salvation as the Helmet to keep our minds safe from fear; the Righteousness of Christ as a holy Breastplate to defend our hearts from doubt and despair; Faith as our shield to quench every fiery dart that the devil launches against us, and the Word of God, which is the Sword of the Spirit, so that we are never defenseless against the Old Evil Foe.
As earthly temples go, God has blessed Christ Lutheran Church beyond measure, more than a thousand tongues could ever tell. For 107 of her 122 year history He provided her with a magnificent earthly temple that was like a mother to us all, a cradle of Christian civilization. And even if for a time we, like our Lord: have no place to lay our heads, as members of the holy Christian church, we are not homeless because Jesus assures us that in the Father’s house there are many rooms, and He has gone ahead to prepare a place there for us.
But because the Lord is Good and because His mercy endures forever we have every reason to believe that He will again provide us with an earthly sanctuary of our own, a house of grace, mercy and peace where we can sing His praises, and where we can say with King David: I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras