“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name.” – 1 Kings 8:41-43
This year marks a milestone for our sanctuary. On December 3rd, 1922, its cornerstone was set into place. For nearly a century our sanctuary has held praise, tears, inspiration, and grace for all who have come seeking the shelter of God’s love. The sanctuary is incredible and yet we know that Central Union Church is more than this one building.
I was reminded of this when reading Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple in Jerusalem. At the dedication ceremony for this ancient masterpiece King Solomon prayed, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” Solomon knew the limitations of his sacred space and he also knew what it could be for the all who entered its grounds. Solomon’s prayer of dedication stretches 30 verses and touches on all of the various activities that will take place in the temple. From sacrifices to oaths and from petitions to instructions, throughout all of the sacred events Solomon returns to the same theme, “Hear us.”
For Solomon and the people of Israel the temple was a place where they felt heard. The cries of their heart, the brokenness they carried, the hopes they had for the future, all could be given a voice at the temple. The temple was a symbol that assured the people of God that God listened and God cared. What I find so powerful about his prayer is that it stretched beyond the people of God. Solomon asked God to hear all who came, including those who were not numbered among the people of Israel. This is what Christ was referring to when he said the house of God is to be a place of prayer for all the nations.
About every week I see people looking into our sanctuary. Sometimes they stand on the steps, head bowed and every once in a while, I see people kneeling at the entrance in prayer. Many times, I have heard from parents who have come from nearby hospitals in order to pray for their little one. Recently, staff and volunteers cleaned up the Pilgrim Chapel. We have reopened that space to the public so that there might be a place to pray.
Whether visits come on Sunday for worship, Wednesday for Serving Aloha, Saturday for the Thrift Shop or any other day during the week, we want to ready to welcome them with aloha. We want to join Solomon’s great prayer and ask that God would hear the longing of their heart. And let us listen deeply to those who come to Central Union in order that they might feel heard and through our actions, God would be praised.