Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the festival in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests carried the ark. So they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up.
King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 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. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles.
There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
Then Solomon said, "The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever."
At Ephrata we heard of the ark;
we found it in the plains of Yearim.
'Let us go to the place of his dwelling;
let us go to kneel at his footstool.' (R./)
Go up, Lord, to the place of your rest,
you and the ark of your strength.
Your priests shall be clothed with holiness;
your faithful shall ring out their joy.
For the sake of David your servant
do not reject your anointed. (R./)
When they had crossed over the lake, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Some people like to worship in churches or temples, whether sharing in ceremonies or praying privately. Others prefer to commune with God out in the natural world, in parks, riverbanks or hill-walking. Still others, of course, profess to have no care at all about God, or feel no need of faith. As disciples of Jesus, we need to try in some way to share with others the joyful experience of worship.
The Jews regarded their temple in Jerusalem as God's special place on earth. It reminded them of the Lord's creative presence throughout the universe, the focal-place for contact between God and his chosen people. The Gospel reading has another view entirely. The real temple for a healing contact with God was no longer a splendid building in Jerusalem, but the living body of Jesus, who reached out to heal the aches and pains of humanity.
All the ceremonial of worship, whether in the Jerusalem temple or on the sanctuaries of our churches, would be empty if they don't serve as reminders of God's power healing our ailments, forgiving our weakness and inspiring us to look on the future with hope. At their best, sanctuaries and churches help us to keep in mind the presence of God in our universe and in our daily living in this world.
Saint Mark shows the great popularity of Jesus among the ordinary people of Galilee. In particular, how he attracted the sick and needy, through the healing that flowed through him. People begged to touch even the fringe of his cloak, like the woman who was healed of her bleeding. The excitement he generated meant that people were eager to connect with him, "bringing the sick to wherever they heard he was."
It is in our own times of need, also, that we seek God's help more urgently. Some illness or misfortune brings home to us our vulnerability, our weakness, our mortality. In those situations, we pray with greater urgency. It is the darker and more painful life experiences that open us to our need for God.
By all means let us praise God in our churches, as king Solomon did in his temple. But the conversations with God that matter most are those we make on our sick beds or with our friends who are in hospital; and above all, when able to walk out again into God's fresh air, the prayer of thanks that we make for the gift of living.