Dearbrothers and sisters of RCAC,
Our43rd Church Anniversary Celebration this year (2020) is going to bevery different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On such occasions we usually“celebrate” and the theme is usually “thanksgiving.” But how can we “celebrate”when we have seen so much suffering and death over the last few months not onlylocally but around the world? While we hope and pray that everything will beback to normal or come to a new normal, let us not miss out on the lessons wecan learn from this pandemic. On ouranniversary this year, I would like us to reflect upon this using the story ofthe dedication of the temple which Solomon built for the Lord (II Chronicles5-7). There are a few lessons for us to remember and apply to our presentsituation:
1. God of heaven and earth cannot be containedby an earthly temple. (6:18)
King Solomon asked the rhetorical question, “But will God indeed dwell with man on theearth? Behold, heaven and the highestheaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I havebuilt! “(6:18) In his prayer of dedication, Solomon prayshumbly before God,
“O Lord,God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keepingcovenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk beforeyou with all their heart, 15who have kept with your servant David myfather what you declared to him. Youspoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. “(6:14-15)
Wecan see that Solomon in his early days was truly a God-fearing King and herecognized God’s faithfulness and power. His genuine humility before God andhis deep awareness of His greatness is evident in v. 18. Here we learn that God is both transcendent (everywhere and above all) and at the same time immanent (presentingHimself locally while not limited to it).
Yes,God has blessed RCAC and His presence in our Church is evident in all theblessings He has bestowed upon us over the past 43 years. But we shouldremember that God is not present only in the Church building. We maybe are soused to identifying our Christian life with what goes on within the four wallsof our Church that we do not know how to connect with God and each other whenwe cannot return to the Church building. So the pandemic actually has opened upthe opportunity for us to realize afresh that the church building is not theChurch, and God is everywhere, and the Church is you and I. Indeed the Kingdomof God is within us.
2. God however haschosen to “localize” Himself to the temple and care for his people. (6:20)
Forour sake, God has placed Himself in “this house” and “this place,” (6:20) eventhough heaven is his dwelling place! This is done so that we can go to “thishouse / this place” to pray to Him. “This house” exists as a house of prayer,where we know prayers are answered. This is what the Scriptures tell us:
“19Yet have regard to theprayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening tothe cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20that your eyes may be open day and nighttoward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name,that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21Andlisten to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they praytoward this place. And listenfrom heaven your dwelling place, andwhen you hear, forgive.”(6:19-21)
Solomonspecified 7 scenarios (examples) where God will care for His chosen people, andespecially relevant to us at this time, when they experienced disease or otherdisaster (6:28-31) as follows:
28 “If there is famine in the land, if there ispestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemiesbesiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sicknessthere is, 29whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or byall your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow andstretching out his hands toward this house, 30then hear from heaven yourdwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, accordingto all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children ofmankind, 31that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days thatthey live in the land that you gave to our fathers.”(6:28-31)
Yes,God will listen to our prayers made in out-stretched hands in his Housewhen we are in dire situations of sickness and other disasters, because He(Christ) is “God with us” (Immanuel). God is the same yesterday, today andforever. He will definitely answer ourprayers today too.
3. God promised to heartheir (our) prayers and “heal their (our) land” (7:14).
Weread, “12Then the Lord appearedto Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer andhave chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13When I shutup the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land,or send pestilence among my people, 14ifmy people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seekmy face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and willforgive their sin and heal their land. ” (7:12-16).
Thechronicler outlines for us four steps of repentance that will lead God toforgive and restore us. We find thateach of these is taken up at appropriate places in the later narrative ofChronicles, marking the amazing interventions of God. The four steps ofrepentance towards forgiveness and healing and restoration are:
a.humble themselves, (attitude ofrepentance). Have we humbled ourselves?
b.pray, (posture of repentance). Do we live a prayerful life?
c.seek my face, (surrender in repentance). Have we surrendered our will to Godand seek His?
d.turn from their wicked ways. (action of repentance). What actions ofsurrender have we taken?
“Heal their land”includes deliverance from drought and pestilence as well as the return ofexiles to their rightful home (6:38). This comes when they repent before God.Healing comes through our repentance before God. If healing is what we want, havewe taken these steps, in our attitude, posture, surrender and action? The pandemic is God’s call to us to go backto Him.
Thispromise is for the chosen people, the people of Israel. But God has promised tobless generally all those who obey Him (e.g. Ps. 1; Matt 6:33; Gal. 6:7-8). May we learn from the current pandemic andcelebrate our Church’s anniversary this year by coming humbly to our Lord JesusChrist, the head of the Church, in repentance for having kept Him at a distance.May we then truly celebrate because the Lord has promised “healing,” to us allat RCAC, both personally and as a Church. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! He canheal us, both now and forever! Amen.
Yourservant in Christ,
Rev.Dr. Simon Lee