1 Kings 8: 6, 22-30
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.
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, “There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.” 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.
27 ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there”, that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place. 30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray towards this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling-place; heed and forgive.
For decades I have loved the songs of Dougie MacLean – maybe it's something to do with having grown up in Perthshire, but there's a beauty and lyricism to his work which is beautifully set off by his delicate finger-picking guitar style.
I was reminded by today’s passage of his song, 'Solid Ground'. Dougie's song is about how certain places on this planet seem to have a kind of magic to them – "it's the land that is our wisdom" he writes – "you cannot own the land, the land owns you". Solomon is building the temple so long desired by the Israelites as a place for God to dwell on earth. Imagine then how holy this ground must have felt for them!
I am blessed to be the churchwarden of two very historic churches in Hampshire – one has Saxon origins and a beautiful rounded Norman arch. Visitors to both buildings are captivated by their beauty, their calm and the craftsmanship on display. People write in the visitor's books about how they find them to be places of calm and refreshment. They often use the word “sanctuary” in relation to how they feel.
We may find a few places of sanctuary – places where it really seems easier for us to hear and meet our God, whether it's a hillside outside Dunkeld or a river bank to the north of Winchester. We need to find those places and develop our listening heart to hear what God is saying. But the older I get, the more I realise God is not to be found only in our places of beauty. We will often see God most clearly when we engage with the poor, the desperate, the broken. But, the question is, will they see God in us?
Almighty God, you are too great to be contained by our buildings, our special places or even our imagination. We pray we would realise that we can find our sanctuary in you wherever we are – that you are the only true solid ground we can find. In Jesus' name, AMEN.