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Posts Tagged ‘temple’

altarWhat is God’s altar today? Is it merely in a church, festooned in appropriate colors for the season of the year, adorned with extras like flowers and candles? What if there is no altar in the church; where then? Rarely do we find the traditional church table in contemporary churches. If anything, it’s the drum set that holds center stage, or perhaps the podium where God’s messenger/priest/pastor/hip guy in a Hawaiian shirt or Toms shoes speaks.

Let me come to God’s altar—let me come to God, my joy, my delight—then I will give you thanks with the lyre, God, my God!  [Psalm 43:4, CEB]

Back in the day of King David when this Psalm (song) was written, there were several altars in the Temple, one holier than the next, until the most sacred altar of all was reached, the one in the “Holy of Holies,” but it was totally inaccessible to the common person, and was only visited on high holy days by a single priest. Is this altar of God we should be imagining?

And by the by, when was the last time you heard a lyre? Here’s a lovely example of a re-created lyre of that time period:

It’s assumed that many of the psalms were songs accompanied by the lyre and that King David, as a young man was quite proficient at playing one. It has a very gentle and soothing sound, but not perhaps, what we might imagine as we stand before this “altar of God.”

Perhaps the real issue is not where or what the altar is or how we come or what instrument we’re playing; instead, perhaps it’s intent. If God is present at the altar, like a meeting place, a touch point, so that each and every time, we came to such an altar, we would meet God, wouldn’t we want to go there often? How much do you want to experience God, to give thanks, to admire and express wonder, to receive love and grace and acceptance.

Oh, God, let me come.

No, God does not need to give permission to attend to this altar. I must simply will it; desire it. Or are my days too full? Even this one. For my morning was whisked away from me and it is already past Vespers as they say, evening for sure. I did not attend the altar.

Are you still unsure where this altar lies? It is within, inside the silence, inside the joy, inside the ever-playing music of God.

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New JerusalemI have read (Bible Study Tools on Jerusalem) that there was a time that Jerusalem was invincible. I can certainly understand how that could happen, just thinking of the miraculous creation of the temple and the tangible presence of God there, how could any enemy prevail?

Jerusalem is built like a city joined together in unity . . . It is the law for Israel to give thanks there . . . Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” [Psalm 122:3, 4b, 6-7, CEB]

But not unlike the confidence in the Titanic, the unsinkable ship of wonder and power, people abused the vessel itself. The Temple was the core of Jerusalem, it’s lifeblood issued from its center, but the leaders and kings continued to misunderstand its role, the basic requirements of worship and faithfulness. As a result, they began to undercut its effectiveness. So it was with the great ship whose design was flawed and never fully tested, whose strength was challenged by boasting and unnecessary risk. Both Jerusalem and the Titanic suffered due to the pride of its caretakers.

And I wonder, are we doing the same thing with our religion? Are we borrowing from the texts the parts we want to use as a hammer against others and setting aside the words that condemn our own actions? Are we elevating our own understanding above the understanding of others? Are we so sure in the details?

And what about the Church itself? Have denominations and preferences become silos from which we are no longer able to see clearly? Now we have a myriad of “Jerusalems” into which we are endowing superiority and funds for the sake of our structures and mindsets.

God promises the earth, the peoples of this earth, a “New Jerusalem.” I do not believe that this is necessarily a humongous cube that will drop down out of space (the heavens) and we’ll all take a ride. Instead, I see it as a unified peoples, living for the sake of others, honoring humanity and the God who made us. The New Jerusalem comes at a cost, the paradox of letting go and surrendering to a different way of living and thinking.

Jesus was on a mission to bring us closer to the New Jerusalem. We’re not there yet. We may have to sink the ship a few more times before we are able to build a structure that can be inhabited by Truth.

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The temple in Jerusalem was built with very detailed specifications. There was an outer court, an inner court, and then the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, a dwelling place for God, was hidden and visited only once a year. Who lives in your holy of holies?

I Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, . . .
[Amplified]

When I became a believer, I invited the Christ to come and dwell within my holiest place. I received the Holy Spirit as a gift from God and that transaction was possible because of the sacrifice God made of His Son to repair the breach between human souls and God. Paul confirms this.

I think we have all become too cavalier about the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are the “host” of this presence; it is a symbiotic relationship. Symbiosis is defined as “the living together of unlike organisms.” What’s interesting to me is that there are different types of symbiosis. In some cases, it’s mutualistic where the relationship benefits both organisms. In other cases, the relationship is essential to the survival of one of the organisms (called obligate) but not the other. There are organisms that are symbiotic and only one organism benefits while the other one is simply not affected at all. And finally, others are parasitic, where one organism benefits while the other one suffers.

Now, I ask myself, which one of these types of symbiosis describes my relationship with the Holy Spirit within? Am I taking advantage of the Spirit’s presence without doing my part of keeping my body’s environment healthy and nurturing? Am I a parasite?

Clearly, the best relationship with the Holy Spirit is mutualistic, but there are grave responsibilities that go with that symbiosis. Fresh air and light (windows and doors open), communication (prayer), peace, love, joy, honesty, hope, laughter, and kindness are just a few of the nutrients that allow the Holy Spirit to thrive within.

Now, it’s not like the Holy Spirit is passive. In fact, when I screw up, I see the Holy Spirit as my personal Joan of Arc doing battle on my behalf. She is my white blood cells. She is my conscience. She has my back.

According to Paul, one of the greatest attacks on the symbiotic relationship between human body and Holy Spirit is sexual immorality. I find that fascinating. Apparently, there is some kind of osmosis that happens in sex, seeds are planted with thoughts about sex, and so forth, which directly affects the Holy Spirit’s environment. I don’t begin to understand this, but if it’s true, then our culture itself is quite toxic.

In the end, our personal Holy of Holies is not unlike the inner sanctuary of the Temple. When we invite the Holy Spirit into that secret place, we are sharing space from that point forward. But, some people have lost their way and don’t even know how to find their own Holy place within. The space is dark, closed off, and empty. In these cases, the Holy Spirit is a guide, leading the lost soul back to the center of being.

Oh Lord, keep me mindful of your Holy Spirit within this day.

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Among the synonyms for “sacred” are words like cherished, revered, guarded, sanctified, and holy. Do I cherish the body I have? Do I treat it reverently? Do I really care about it? And what about the bodies of others? Do I cherish them, the sacred others?

I Corinthians 3:17
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

On Facebook I have a friend, Tracey Tiernan, who has started a group called “Flipping the Switch” (She writes, “It seems like my pursuit of being healthy is like a switch in my brain that is either flipped off or on.”)

Isn’t our view of ourselves and others the same way? Flipping a switch is a clever way of calling for a choice. Or, in poker, revealing a hand. It’s time to lay the cards on the table and go with what we have. Use what we have. Honor what we have. Cherish what we have.

Like many people, I am in denial about the state of my body. I can justify putting my health and my body on the back burner because “I’m so busy.” Oh, it’s holy to pray every day. And it’s beneficial to others and to me to write every day. It nourishes the brain to read every day. It nurtures the soul to study the Word every day. But, what am I doing for this body?

Oh yeah, I’m feeding it all right. Good for me: I take vitamins and minerals. And then I go out for a latte and a donut (a munchkin, because it disappears before I can think about it). I pop chocolate. I ride when I could walk. I sit when I could stand. I sleep as little as possible. I drink about one glass of water a day and the rest is tea and coffee (pat on the back, I’ve given up soda and aspartame). I eat in my car, at my desk, and sitting at a computer. I cook with a microwave. Is this cherishing behavior?

My body is a microcosm of God’s world. The parable about planting and then leaving a vineyard in the care of servants while the Master goes on a journey also applies to the body [Matthew 21:33-41]. I am the caretaker for my body. It has been entrusted to me in this 3D world.

I want to accept who I am IN this body. I am mind, soul AND body. Lord forgive me for treating this temple so casually as though it doesn’t matter. It does matter. You are within. And it really is time to flip that switch.

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