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  • Writer's pictureBishop Peter F. Hansen

House

St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church

Bishop Peter F. Hansen

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, August 13, 2023

“AND when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes”



AT AGE seventeen, I struggled over where to go to college and what I to study. I’d been reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and her hero impressed me. Howard Roark was an architect and his philosophy was that form should follow function. His buildings sang with integrity, their structures articulated, their lines clean, the spaces he created caused spirits to soar. I felt I must be an architect. The California schools of architecture were USC, UC Berkeley, Stanford and Cal Tech San Luis Obispo. SC was too close to home, Stanford too snooty, SLO for technicians—so off to Berkeley I went.


As an introduction, I was told that my degree would be the last 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree offered, and the likelihood of getting a job as an architect was nil. I was crazy to try. I qualified.


I learned one great truth. Among all the arts, in only two can you enter within the piece and let it surround and enter you. Music and architecture. That appealed to me. I did five years and graduated, playing music with my band at my graduation. I tried to get work in the field and 200 architect’s offices turned down my resume because the warning was true: there was no work in architecture.


But I learned that a building has more than a function. It might be the ego of its builder, or the surround for some process, or the confinement of prisoners. A jail should not look like city hall, nor a church like a restaurant. A building can actually live, like the velveteen rabbit, because we love it, raggedy thought it be. A mere house becomes a home when it is loved. People in Chico loved this old building.


The ancient Jews constructed a building made of fabric, seal skins and wooden poles: not stone or wood, but a tent, a tabernacle that could be demounted, rolled up, and carried from place to place, for they were nomads. After they’d been settled in the Land of Israel for centuries, King David felt the need to make their most holy building permanent. God said David was inappropriate to build it, as he was a man of war. His son Solomon designed Israel’s greatest building that rose in blocks of marble and beams of cedar. The Holy of holies was lined with gold plate. The day came at last for dedicating the Temple.


Solomon led the ceremony, praying God might indwell it. But then asked, “will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” Yet the king asked that God’s eyes would ever be upon it, and put His Name there. 1 Kings 8:27-28 Solomon then outlined many cases where prayer and repentance might meet God’s approval when peopled turned toward Jerusalem, even from distant lands, to pray that God forgive and restore them. When anyone sinned, when Israel fell defeated before an enemy, when drought or famine stalked the land, when besieged by aliens, or plagued with disease—Solomon asked that God hear and heal them all. In such cases of hardship, Solomon confessed it would be due to the sins of the people and their neglect of the worship of God.


Surprisingly, he added, “a foreigner, who has come from a far country… when he prays toward this temple, hear in heaven… that all peoples of the earth may… know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.”41-44 In very fact, the Temple of Israel was at its foundation built for Jews and Gentiles alike.


Some years later, the prophet Isaiah would take up the theme: “Also the foreigners Who join the Lord – Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:6-7 It was this very declaration that Jesus took up when He cleared the Temple of Herod.


Jesus had stood looking over the city and He wept. He knew what was about to happen to Him, and that in four decades these walls would be tumbled down the ravine in the wrath of Rome. Jerusalem would lose many lives, their capital city, their Temple and all “because you did not know the time of your visitation.” They would reject the Son of God, they had replaced God with rituals and sacrifices that paid the priests twice and mocked the purpose of the Temple—God would judge the City of David and destroy it. Thus, Jesus was enraged that those who knew the sacredness of this building and its purpose, had turned it into a meat market and an ATM. Jesus made a lash of cords and drove out the moneychangers and animal sellers, broke the cages, released the lambs and doves, and cried out, “It is written, 'My house is a house of prayer for all people,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'” Luke 19:41-46


There are some who build buildings, and some who design them. Others decorate, clean, care for and dress up these houses, making dead stones live. If we can make a mere building a living thing, are we not ourselves very special and holy buildings? As a graceful building, like beautiful music, surrounds us and enters our hearts and minds, the likeness of our bodies to a building has been seen as well.


St. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” 1 Cor 3:16-17 “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” 1 Cor 6:19-20 Your body is the new Temple. We build churches, and they are sacred spaces of gathering designated for worship, and the very Body of Christ is blessed and revered on this altar. But that Body is not to remain locked in the tabernacle. If we consecrate Jesus’ body simply to hide it and worship it, then we don’t understand bread, nor do we comprehend His body. He gives His own body as food for you. He sends His Holy Spirit to indwell you. The Temple of God on earth at this day and in this hour – is you.


Think of it. The Temple is you, and how much more holy than a house of Douglas fir, clay bricks, tar paper, cedar and composition shingle: are you who is made of living cells—muscle, organ and bone—and red blood. If you are a Temple, the House of Prayer for all people, then do you pray? Can you not face the God within your spirit and repent of your flaws and be forgiven? Are you a place of refuge for others who need mercy from the God of heaven and don’t know where He is to be found? Are the moneychangers and butchers welcome to do business in you, or are they driven out with Christ’s passion for the holiness of this place?


Jesus said, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Rev 3:12 The Name of God was spiritually inscribed on the Temple of Solomon. His new name shall be written on your eternal self. You are its very pillar.

Unable to secure work as an architect, I worked in construction—industrial coatings—for 16 years. I wore hardhats, steel toed boots, and helped build massive structures, great heights, remarkable projects. My largest job was the Benicia Bridge widening. Ever buy a painting contract for $2¼ million? You did, actually. It was a state job. While we actively worked on them, they were still under construction: not in full function yet. Like you and me. The Temple of God in us is being built.


Paul also speaks of our building materials. The foundation is Jesus Christ: solid, deep, true, level and able to bear any load. On Him we build upward, but with what materials? We might use wood, even reeds, bamboo, or hay. They do build with hay, actually. But if a fire starts in such a building, those materials are going to go up in smoke. Paul says we ought to build with gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, pearls. 1 Cor 3:11-12 After the fire test, what endures is built with nobler metals. What does this mean?


Naturally, we treat the body well, as a gift from God. We eat right, exercise, and don’t abuse these vessels. Spiritually, what we take into our eyes, our ears, and how we speak and act do make a difference to the Temple. We are always building, always the architects of these lives. Form follows function, and truly the form of a man who has drunk or drugged himself for years follows the pattern of his self abuse. You don’t have to get close to know one coming up the walk. In the eyes of heaven, every action leaves such an imprint on the building that you are. What are you constructing in your life as the Temple of the Holy Spirit? What are you using as material to make yourself holy for Him?


Our church may have a carved Jesus on the crucifix. We may hang stations of the cross, and a tapestry of Mary, the Lord’s mother. Some may suspect us of idol worship. Not so. The test: if God forbid this building burned down, would we say that God burned too? That He’s been killed and we’ve lost the worship once held in here? No, of course not.

But the day of your visitation is coming. Jesus will look across the valley and see your form lifting itself over the ancient walls of His city. The Temple of God catches the morning light as the sun’s rays shine on its golden walls, its silvered porches, its diamond encrusted colonnades, and gleam in its pearl gates. May every stone cry out, “Hosanna Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord!”


+PFH

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