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Is Your Church Holy?

August 9, 2015

10th Sunday of Holy TrinityIglesita0

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”

Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words”.
Luke 19:41-48

A priest once told: “Growing up on the Atlantic Coast, I spent long hours working on intricate sand castles; whole cities would appear beneath my hands. One year, for several days in a row, I was approached by bullies who smashed my creations. Finally I tried an experiment: I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match. Many people see the church in grave peril from a variety of dangers: secularism, politics, heresies, or plain old sin. They forget that the church is built upon a Rock “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. (Mt. 16:16), over which the gates of hell itself shall not prevail”.
But today Jesus speaks of a church or temple where “They will not leave one stone on another”. Which church is he talking about?
Here is one of the few occasions where it is mentioned that Jesus wept. He wept over Jerusalem. He wept for his Jewish people. He cried because they weren’t open to believing in him as the Son of God, as the Messiah, as the sent Savior and God’s chosen one. He cried for the consequences that would come as a result of the “chosen people” rejecting Christ. And it is also one of the few opportunities in the New Testament where we can see a clear and definitive prophecy from Jesus’ about what would happen to Israel and, more specifically, its capital, the city of Jerusalem. Everything Jesus briefly describes came to pass in Jerusalem. And this happened to not only the city, but especially the temple, the holiest place for the Jews, even to this day. One of the biggest problems for today’s Israelites is that they want to reclaim the space where the temple of Israel was located but that it is now occupied by a Muslim mosque. The most radical Jews would even be willing to go to war to recover that place. That place, according to the Jewish people, is where God dwells and where they can worship him in the most appropriate manner by means of the well known sacrifices described in the Bible.

But for us Christians, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, we know that God doesn’t live in temples built by human beings. In any case, every one of us is a living temple, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). So says the apostle Paul. God must be reflected by us in our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds. We don’t need a specific place to worship God and God is not in a specific place. We don’t need a building to worship God. The original meaning of ‘church’ is meeting. It is the gathering of those who confess Jesus Christ: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” (Mt 18:20). We also don’t need animal sacrifices to please God as was custom to Old Testament believers. Jesus himself was sacrificed for us as the last “lamb”, so that we can find God’s grace and blessing again and all those who accept this sacrifice and believe in Christ will have the salvation He offers. All those who believe are saved by the blood Christ shed on the cross. Therefore, we don’t need a specific building to find God, and no specific building will bring us closer to God.

On the other hand, just as we need the church, in the sense of a meeting, we also need a specific place where we can gather weekly. Because it is commanded of all believers: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God” (Ex 20: 8-10) Or as Paul tells us: “Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25)
God asks us that we come together just for God’s sake. Gathering or congregating is the main way to love only God, through our bodily attendance in the church, our reverence, our worship and our praise. So we are told in the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” … This is the first and great commandment “(Matthew 22:38) Some good Christians forget this. They forget that this is the most important commandment. Everything else they do for God is very good and praiseworthy and necessary, but they forget the very first and most fundamental thing.

That’s why we build churches; in a sense they are buildings for gatherings. That’s why every community is happy with its temple, with the building that identifies them as Christians. The church shouldn’t be a building that identifies us as an ethnic group, or a group of people of the same language or origin or characteristics. The church should be a place where we feel identified by our Christian faith. That is the meaning and base of every Christian community. It is true; we cannot deny that a church can have characteristics such as language, race, and different cultural aspects. That’s fine, we cannot deny it. But it shouldn’t be the most important aspect that drives us together. Most importantly, we are meeting together because we identify with our faith in Christ Jesus.

When we start to see the church with this in mind, we begin to understand the major meaning of the church. When we begin to act like Christians and know that Christ lives in us and we carry him inside of us anywhere we go, we start to be ‘the communion of saints’ described in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. And these saints begin to congregate anywhere they have decided to do so and there they call that temple or church. That church itself does turn into a holy place. When we start coming to church every Sunday with such devotion and know we are here firstly to worship God, then this church is transformed into the most holy place as it was the holiest temple of the Bible, because the very presence of God dwells in this place. And God is delighted to come and dwell here, because we have understood why we are coming to church.

Right away God is here. He is here because there are believers who understand this on this morning. They have come to worship God. They have come to congregate. They came to church this morning because they want to obey God. They came because they love God and want to show it week after week. And God is here especially because, every Sunday at the beginning of the service, we call upon the presence of God when we say: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Is God here today? Of course, He is here, through His Holy Spirit. And we come to church because we need Him to start the week rightly. We need to feed ourselves spiritually. If the Spirit is well nourished, our other parts will also be. If the Spirit is not well fed, everything else will not be, even if we may have an abundance of material things.

Many of the people of Israel at that time, and still today, didn’t understand what was holy about the temple. The temple was not holy in itself. They themselves could have made it holy. But they were not reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, so God could dwell in them and in that temple. That’s why Jesus was weeping. Because that temple that was not filled with God’s real presence and it will not last long despite having the largest and thickest walls. Built with 46 years of manual work, packed with gold and carvings in the finest Lebanese cedar, the temple did not last because those who visited did not allow God to dwell in the house of their lives. When we allow God to dwell in the temple of ourselves, every one of us is a walking temple that reflects Christ’s love, purity and honesty. Wherever we decide to meet together, it is holy. And it will be even more holy because what we are doing is loving and obeying God.
May God allow us to understand and enjoy His presence every time we come to this holy place and that His Spirit may accompany us with His wonders throughout the week. .
Amen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    August 11, 2015 9:25 am

    Thank you! Margaret

    Have a joyful day!

    >

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