Sermon celebrating the opening of the new community building by Rahema Church, scheduled for 6-8th April 2019. (17th Jan 2019)
King Solomon follows in his father David’s vision, a good vision in the eyes of our God, and after a period of good toil and work we have come to the opening day. This day, today!
God comes to meet with His people, with His sons and daughters; not just the king and the priests, but with the whole nation that He has chosen. This is His dearest desire; as much as we know any of God’s desires- thank Him for His Spirit!
After all the work and creativity; the saving of finances and materials by King David and the nation; by Solomon and his generation; the investment of planning and labour; of wonderful creativity in relationships, in design, in bringing your community together to construct a glorious reflection of the nature of God in humankind- a house for father and mother to be with their children, as Father God desires to be with His children.
God sees all that we do- and it is good to do this, indeed it must be done. We need buildings, and especially for meeting as the family of God. It’s good to meet in the open field under a marquee for shade- but the rains must come, please God, in due time, so we need shelter, and like the buildings in Europe built a thousand years ago, they are a legacy gift for generations to come, to educate, to hold market, to meet as a community; an open space for many gatherings to build our futures together. This is what you can facilitate and encourage, as I said with Roy here two years ago. For the whole community!
But what God intends is not that we become self-sufficient in our own supply and provision, and certainly not that we hold religious church meetings, where we plead with our brothers to come to sit and stand and get sweaty while one brother or sister shouts and preens themselves at the lectern- proclaiming the name of Jesus but guarding the glory for themselves. You are not doing that. But many in Kenya are, and sadly they are doing this in too many places around God’s own world. Jesus is building His Church!
When the priests went to the Temple they had made under God’s blessing and according to His precise instructions, and began to offer their worship, as the workers had offered their worship in the construction, God came down! At Babel, the peoples had tried to reach heaven on their own terms, to exalt themselves. As with the repentant David, now under Solomon’s wise leadership, the people built in partnership with God. At Babel, God came down in judgement and the peoples were scattered and divided into many languages for their arrogance. But now! God came down in blessing and in great glory; the temple was filled with smoke and glory and they could not stay inside! God’s smoke drove them out, and they rejoiced! Now the dwelling of God is with His people! Emmanuel, God with us! And all can see it, as all alike are in the open field around the temple. God is with us all today! Are you hopeful that God is coming to fill this room with smoke today?
I am not. You should not be. I came to sit with you in your houses, which are already full of smoke. You are sick and some die because your kitchen fires fill your houses with cooking smoke. The old die early and the young are coughing because you live in humble circumstances and you have to use a few sticks of wood to cook what food you have indoors where the fire will be a little hotter out of the wind. So you can cook on more days of the week to feed your families. Your tears wash the smoke and ash from your faces, and God weeps with you when you bury your loved ones. I have been with you when you buried your precious ones. And some of you were walking down the street when your brother was shot next to you as you protested for your right as humble citizens to determine the future of your beautiful country. Lord may the tribes of Kenya come to love more deeply as sisters and brothers!
What is the Church of Jesus Christ? It is His Body- the Church is us! We are God’s people who should live and love as the responsible Body of Christ- His Church community. The prophet Isaiah told us that God would restore David’s fallen tent, and indeed the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt by the returned exiles hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Leaders like Nehemiah and Ezra were in the front of the crowd of servants, of God’s people who picked up the vision and shouldered the burden together. Many other servants are known only to God: the Bible does not tell us about them, but God knows their names. God remembers them.
But the Jews did not understand what God meant when He prophesied through Isaiah that he would restore both the Temple and the kingship- and we would not have done any better. John the Baptist showed all disciples the Messiah, the Christ: ‘He is such a great king that is coming that I am not worthy even to untie his sandals!’ After Jesus went to the cross for us all- us sinners all, Jew and Gentile alike- He rose again on the third day and told his disciples to wait for Him. To wait in Jerusalem. To wait in prayer and intercession. To wait with his brothers and sisters, his mother and neighbours- all who love his Name. Wait there for the Holy Spirit of God. Can you wait with Jesus? I know some of you wait with God in the rocks on the walls of the Rift Valley- I met some of you there last time sister Lyn and brother Jeff welcomed me to partner with you. I do not try very hard to wait with Jesus. I am not much good at it, but it is easier with other friends of Jesus. Every Monday morning we meet in my home town to lift up the Lord over our town. For six continuous years we have met each week. Fragrant incense rising in prayer before the Lord. For wait with Him we must. We are the temple of Christ! Living stones being built together, one with another, in families, in new marriages, with children, with our neighbours, with all the heavenly citizens of the heaven whose Lord and King is our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the Name lifted above every name everywhere and in every time.
And after 40 days the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit visited with His new temple- the waiting disciples of Jesus in the secret upper room, and they were touched with tongues of holy fire- but this time there is no smoke! God’s holy Presence now comes without smoke: there is progress in the coming together of heaven and earth. By His grace, we can all breathe in the presence of God and in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Lord, let your fire fall! Let Your fire fall!! Holy Spirit of God, come to lead us again as we learn to wait with You, and fill us afresh; blow away the smoke, the dirt, the ash from our lives as we walk in repentance. Lead us out into the fields and streets and the city in a new Pentecost to speak your love into our community, that you love more than we do. To show what the love of Jesus looks like by doing what we see Our Father who is in heaven is doing. You send your holy fire without smoke. Help us to develop our neighbourhood to build homes that have Your fire but with less smoke, and in time, with no smoke at all. God’s desire is moving forward with everyone: Of the increase of His government and of Peace there will be no end!