By James Cornwell
A Reading from 1 Kings 7:51-8:21
51 Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. Solomon brought in the things that his father David had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord.
1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. 2 All the people of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the festival in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3 And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests carried the ark.
4 So they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5 King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. 8 The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; they are there to this day. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
12 Then Solomon said,
“The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
13 I have built you an exalted house,
a place for you to dwell in for ever.”
14 Then the king turned round and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15 He said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17 My father David had it in mind to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to consider building a house for my name; 19 nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20 Now the Lord has upheld the promise that he made; for I have risen in the place of my father David; I sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 There I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our ancestors when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
In today’s reading, Solomon completes his famous temple. No more will the Lord’s presence in Israel travel around within the tabernacle. Instead, he will now have a magnificent place to dwell where his people may instead come to meet him. Solomon gives a speech in which he notes that it was always David’s desire to build a temple for the Lord, but that it fell to his son to accomplish that dream.
The Old Testament is full of these sorts of intergenerational challenges. Recall that Moses led the people of Israel through the desert knowing that he himself would never see the Promised Land, and instead that the completion of this task would fall to Joshua. Each generation is given the tasks suited to it, and many will never see the fruits of their labors while they still live.
Unlike Solomon and Joshua, we live on the other side of the first coming of Christ. Our Lord no longer dwells in the temple, but in the holy sacrament and, through the receipt of that sacrament, in the hearts of his faithful people. But this dwelling place needs to be built and made suitable for the Lord to take up his residence, and therein lies the true labor of the Church: to build up the children of the next generation, raising them to be wise and to love the Lord, that they may one day take up tools to build him a dwelling place within their hearts.
This is not a task only for the biological parents of the Church’s children; all who call themselves Christians have a responsibility to see to it that the next generation is brought up in wisdom and virtue, so that when they are given the tools to build a dwelling place in their hearts, they build it for the Lord and not for some worldly idol. Churches and the Christians that dwell within them succeed or fail according to the extent to which they succeed or fail at this task: shaping younger hearts fit for our Lord to dwell.
James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.
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The Diocese of Dallas
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