This morning’s sermon is by Sam Leitermann
My father is a designer of theatres, of theatrical spaces, and his work has always been fascinating to me. As a child, I remember him drawing sketches and notes on random scraps of paper, architectural drawings on napkins, and calculations on the backs of envelopes. One of my most cherished mementos is a postcard he once sent me from Amsterdam. It has a drawing of a gantry crane, and a description of how his hotel loads in groceries from the canal below. It is a quintessential token of my father’s interests and affections.
In today’s reading, King David has taken a rest. He has finally gained a reprieve from the enemies of Israel, and he is doing the equivalent of showing Nathan a drawing on a napkin. “Look at this great house I’m building!” he says, “I think God will love it!” says Nathan, without asking the Lord, agrees wholeheartedly.
Now, I’m sure the house, or more likely a temple, was gorgeous, but God had different plans. That night, he asks Nathan if he has ever complained about his lowly abode of a tent. He admonishes Nathan for assuming he wants or even needs a house of cedar, and then he flips the script. He says to Nathan,
I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.
God is reminding us that not only does he not need a temple but also that his will transcends earthly conceits such as temples and palaces. He is reminding us that the work of God transcends our shortsighted plans to build monuments to him. Above all, God is reminding us that he will speak to his people and reveal his will, if we will only listen.
I am reminded of the old romantic comedy trope, the “checklist.” You know the one, where the main character is making a five-year plan? The plan will of course fall apart through the course of the movie, and a new and different course will present itself to our protagonist.
We believe that we can map out our lives, that we can make plans. And often, we find that those plans go awry, that our lives move in a direction we never expected. How often do we ask our God what his plan for us is? How often do we ask ourselves how our plans enact his plan for the kingdom on earth?
God tells us that he is building for us a place, a kingdom, which will be a home for his people. He is telling us that his son, a descendant of David, will establish this home for us. God tells us that his house, his home, is this kingdom. We know as Christians that he is speaking of Jesus, establishing God’s kingdom on earth. We know that God’s plans transcend our plans.
It is so often in hindsight that we recognize God’s plan for us, and it is so often we wish we knew before hand. But we can learn from King David and Nathan that if we ask God beforehand, if we ask for guidance, God will tell us his plan. Through worship, scripture, and prayer, we can learn about God’s plans for us. Rather than blindly making plans without God’s guidance, we should spend time each day asking for his help and presence as we make decisions. The time we spend in prayer has the capability to transform us into people cognizant of God’s work in the world, and how he works through us. Like Nathan, we all sometimes need a reminder that God’s plan is greater than we know, that his designs are grander than we imagine, and that his will is to bring all his people into his house, his heavenly kingdom.
When I walked into St. Luke’s 3 years ago, I had no clue in what direction my life would go. I could never have predicted the opportunities that God would open up to me, and I only hope that through prayer I can discover more of God’s plan for me, and that together St. Luke’s can discover God’s plan for us, so that we can move forward together into the kingdom of God. St. Luke’s, like so many other churches, is facing a time of transition, a time where we will need to consider what God’s will for our congregation is. This is a challenge faced by the church as a whole, as we explore how we as Episcopalians will move forward to do God’s work in the world. It is a challenge now faced by our new Presiding Bishop Curry, as he determines what vision God has for his role in leading our church.
As we move into the fall, all of us at St. Luke’s will be thinking about what changes may come, and what our future may hold. But if we ask God, he will build for us a house, a congregation united in a common goal to further the kingdom of God through our own unique plans and endeavors. If we ask God, he will show us a way.
King David wanted to build the perfect house for God, a house like you might see on TV on “My Dream Home,” but this makes me remember when I used to visit my Great-Grandmother, who had a plaque over her door that read “God Bless this Mess.” The house that God is building isn’t perfect, and it might not be featured on TV. It is messy, disjointed, and it’s not always what we planned on. But it is a home that God has built for us, and everyday we work to make it better. Amen.