Summary: Solomon built his temple. The worship at the temple by the people of God almost immediately needed to be reformed. Amos and other prophets called the people back to God. The reformation continued with Martin Luther and continues in the church today,
1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13 “God’s Presence”
“Reformed and Always Reforming” is a phrase that catches the spirit of our Reformation commemoration. We remember that five hundred years ago the Church had strayed away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. It had become deformed and, as a consequence, it needed to be reformed. That process of reformation has continued through the centuries. The Church is not the same as it was shortly after the seismic upheavals of the Reformation. Today it continues to be reformed and changed. In fact, many of us believe that the Church is going through a reformational process as great or great than the one that started when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.
Reformation is not something that is relatively new. Rather, reformation is the constant activity of the Holy Spirit and a common practice of God in God’s relationship with God’s people.
Change was in the air. The nation of Israel was no longer at war. Solomon had ascended to the throne of Israel and had decided to build a temple to the Lord. He aligns the religious more closely with the political, when he does this. Taking the Ark of the Covenant, which has been kept in the tabernacle/tent from the Exodus, Solomon moves it into the new temple. Solomon builds the magnificent structure, even though God has said that, “He would dwell in thick darkness.” Still, God’s glory fills the temple.
The temple became to be understood as the site of God’s presence in Israel. It was at the core of Israelite culture and the temple quickly became institutionalized. As such, God was continually seeking to reform the temple and the people. The prophet Amos, speaking for God, proclaims, “I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21).
It is the temple that Jesus attacks, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and, in anger, yelling, "It is written," he said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13)!
Early in the Church’s history, it was remarked, “Behold how these Christians love one another.” This was not the Church of Martin Luther’s time. It had become an all-powerful, corrupt institution. The pope commanded armies. Church offices (bishops, archbishops and cardinals) were sold to the highest bidder. The laity was controlled by ignorance and fear and robbed with threats and promises.
In the centuries before Luther, other Reformers had arisen. St. Francis of Assisi preached poverty, simplicity and service in the twelfth century. John Wycliffe was a fourteenth century English Reformer. Jan Hus sought change in the fourteenth century. He was burned at the stake for his efforts.
Riding the wave of the Renaissance and Nationalism, the Holy Spirit used Martin Luther along with John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli to reform the Church. Luther highlighted the need to reclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ—that God is a God of love and that we are all saved by grace and not by works.
THE COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUALS TODAY
In recent history, the Church has gone through massive changes. Emphasis is now being placed on living out one’s faith daily by sharing God’s love and grace, rather than believing a set of theological doctrines and principles. Less stress is being placed on going to heaven after a person dies, than living in God’s kingdom on this earth today.
Church practices and teachings are changing. Women are being allowed into leadership roles in several denominations. Teachings have changed on subjects such as slavery and segregation. Many denominations, congregations and individuals have recaptured the vision of caring for creation. The Church has come to the forefront of standing with minorities, seeking justice for the exploited and disenfranchised and challenging the privileged status of the one percent at the expense of the ninety-nine.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop, however, at institutions and organizations. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives, also. We have been reformed at our baptism—being born from above. Change is also taking place in our lives on a regular basis. As Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the LORD's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The wind of the Spirit is blowing in a different direction; she is trying to teach us new things. We are challenged not to harden our hearts and stiffen our necks while muttering that age old excuse, “We’ve never done it this way before.” A more appropriate response may be one uttered by the prophet Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”