Transfiguration A: Transcendence

Fog on mountaintopOLD TESTAMENT:  Exodus 24: 12-18

Read the passage from Exodus

According to tradition, the Book of Exodus is known as “the Second Book of Moses”.  The major themes of Exodus are identified as liberation, law, covenant, and presence.  The presence of God is exceedingly important.  God’s presence is seen as life-giving glory being concretely present in the world.  The assumption is that God yearns to be present, but that requires a community of generous faith, emptied of the worldly culture around it, which gives its best skills, disciplines, and goods for the housing of the holy.  The main theme of the passage that we read is communion in the presence of God.  This is prior to the making of the covenant.  We just have to bask in God’s overwhelming and exuding presence. The preceding verses have God inviting Moses back up the mountain.

Now…some background…in the understanding of this early community of faith, God was not to be seen.  God was the great I AM, one whose name could not be said, one whose power could not be beheld, one whose presence could not be seen. (It is in some way a better way to think of God—“lost in wonder and awe”– than the way we often view God as a great vending machine ready to tend to all of our wants and needs!  After all, it seems that it would be harder to take the great I AM for granted!)  But here, if one saw God, one died…But here God was!

So Moses goes farther up the mountain.  (Now remember too that for these ancient Israelites, the mountain was a source not only of grandeur, but also of divine revelation.  Mountain tops were sacred places.) He is with Joshua, who really plays no part.  It is noted that perhaps the narrator of the event is looking forward to that time when Joshua would be his successor and tries to legitimate that role.  But, finally, Moses is alone and, alone, walks into the cloud.  (Now keep in mind their understanding of seeing God. Their assumption would be that Moses was going to die.—Look at the language…”devouring fire). But here he waits in complete obedience to be addressed and to receive.  Think about this…to those in the world, to those standing and looking up at the mountain, God’s presence resembles a “devouring fire”, something that destructs and devours everything in its path, clearing the path before it.  God’s presence comes in and changes everything…and that is painful.  But, it says, Moses entered the cloud.  He goes where no one has ever gone before.  He leaves the zone of humanness and enters the sphere of God.  And then he stays.  No one thought he would ever return—consumed by that fiery inferno.  For God to come here, Moses must go there!  The truth is, Moses probably got a whole lot more of God than he every really wanted.

The Hebrews understood that no one could see God and live.  They were right.  No one can see God and remain unchanged.  We die to ourselves and emerge in the cloud.  We, too, probably don’t want “all of God”.  We’d rather control the way God enters and affects our lives.  But remember the words of the Isaac Watts hymn:  “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

 

  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. How would our understanding of God change if we thought of God as the “Great I AM”?
  3. What keeps us from realizing that God’s presence changes everything in our lives rather than merely affirming who we are?
  4. (OK…this is an odd question)…Do we really want as much of God as God is willing to share with us?  Do we really want a God that is “so amazing, so divine” that a relationship with that God “demands my soul, my life, my all?”

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT:  2 Peter 1: 16-21

Read the passage from 2 Peter

Although this epistle is often presented as the work of the Apostle known as Simon Peter, most scholars attribute it to an unknown author writing under the name of Peter.  (Keep in mind the tradition of honoring someone by using their name—this is not plagiarism!)   So this letter is looked upon as pseudonymous.  There doesn’t seem to be any real indication that even the first and second letters of Peter were written by the same author.  They vary quite a bit in style and form.

The recipients of the letter were apparently undesignated churches once addressed by the first letter of Peter as well as some of Paul’s epistles.  The writer was prompted by a presence of false teachers who had convinced weak or new Christians to accept their doctrine that claimed that Christ’s presence and coming was a myth.  To them, God was transcendent and unconcerned with humanity.  The idea of God coming and living in our midst was something that they just couldn’t fathom so they preached against it.  This went against the Apostles’ teaching of living a holy life while one waited for the glory of the coming of Christ; in other words, while one waited for what we humans had already figured out it would look like when God comes.

In the passage that we read, the author refutes this whole incorrect belief with a proof from eyewitness testimony from those who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration.  This whole problem came about because, in the minds of those in that day, God had not been true to God’s word of Christ’s return.  They thought it was going to be the next week or the next month or certainly by now!  It was easy to turn it into a myth.  (And, I suppose, remains that way for some people.)  But the writer encourages its hearers to remain faithful and build up their own faith.

The truth is, our faith is not a belief in what is said or taught but, rather, a belief in what is.  It is not a faith of following what is said or what is known but in listening to what is, to the God who calls us even now and walks with us down the mountain into the unknown.  It is believing in a God who walks with us into Life.

 

  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. What does the concept of Christ’s return mean for you?
  3. What gets in the way of your seeing that come to be in your own life?

 

 

GOSPEL:  Matthew 17: 1-9

Read the passage from The Gospel According to Matthew

The Greek for “transfigured” is, here, metamorphormai, or “to undergo a metamorphosis”.  In our terms (think of a butterfly—that’s sort of our “go to” symbol.), that means a change in form or character.  Here, Jesus glows with a transcendent glory reserved only for heavenly beings, which implies that he belongs to the divine world or at the very least was being showered and consumed by the very Divine.  The Gospel writer of Matthew depicts Jesus as being together with Moses and Elijah in a scene of transcendent glory, showing Jesus in continuity with the fulfillment of God’s work portrayed by the Old Testament.

As we read in our Old Testament reading, the heavenly voice and presence comes from the cloud.  Matthew has this same image of the cloud.  Peter’s response seems odd to us, almost as if he misses the whole point. (And probably makes us a bit uncomfortable with our own reaction!)  It sounds like he’s trying to control or contain the Christ.  But keep in mind that it was a response from his Jewish understanding.  He was offering lodging—a booth, a tent, a tabernacle—for the holy.  But he needed only to listen.  That is the proper response to such incredible holiness.

And somewhere in the depiction, Moses and Elijah drop out of sight.  In Old Testament Hebrew understanding, the tabernacle was the place where God was.  Here, in this moment, this changes.  Jesus stays with them alone.  Jesus—not Moses, not Elijah–IS the tabernacle, the reality of God’s presence in the world.  The disciples descend down the mountain into the world, full of pain and suffering and injustice.  But God’s presence remains with us.

In the Old Testament passage that we read, Moses descended the mountain with the law; in the depiction of the Transfiguration of Christ, Jesus descends with his own life and body given unto all.  Fred Craddock describes the account of the Transfiguration of Christ as “the shout heard round the world”, the glorious announcement of what happened in Bethlehem years before.  It IS the final Epiphany.

It says, though, that the disciples descended from the mountain.  That is the key.  We are not called to some sort of removed piety.  We must return to the world.  The Transfiguration leads directly into Lent.  Jesus descends and walks toward Jerusalem.  The Transfiguration leads us to Lent and at the same time gives us a taste of Easter glory.  But those who are present are told not to speak of it.  There is something about this that would never have been understood until it was placed in the context of what was to come next and, for now, we know more than those disciples what that is.  Jesus has gone onto Jerusalem.  Our response must be to follow—even into what we know.

 

After a person is baptized in an Episcopal Church, there is a prayer said for the newly baptized, which concludes like this:  “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.”

The gift of joy and wonder in all your works.  We’ve lost many things over the years. Joy and wonder are two of them. It’s just so hard to conjure up wonder. As a parent, one of the parental goals I have for myself is to raise two girls with a sense of wonder. So, I take them to museums and cathedrals, and point out the intricacies and nuances of what they’re seeing. When I speak of God to them, I not only tell them that Jesus is their friend and with them all the time (which is good), but also that he made the sun, the moon and the stars. And manatee. And flamingos. And Cheetos.  OK, I definitely leave out the Cheetos…

 

As a priest, I try and conjure up for the parish I serve similar awe of the power of God, the minute and amazing details of the scriptures, and the movement of the Holy Spirit through the history of humanity and the Church.  Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. I’ve had too many experiences of taking youth into a grand nave of a wondrous, storied, cathedral or abbey… only to find them more interested in looking at their shoes and incoming text messages.  Those moments hurt my heart.

We had a clergy day a few weeks back with Mike Gecan, the author of “Going Public.” He talked about going into his child’s Kindergarten class and seeing a bulletin board illustrating what the students wanted to learn in school that year. Most of the statements were like, “behave,” “learn to sit still,” “follow the rules,” “listen to the teacher better.”

One child said “I want to know why the ocean shines like fire.”  Holy smoke.  I mean HOLY smoke! Now that the kids mentions it… I want to know why the ocean shines like fire too.  There’s a kid who has the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works.

We can say a lot about the Tranfiguration. And given it’s prevalent use in the lectionary from year to year, we get to say a lot about it.  But, if there’s ever a “WOW” moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, this is it. Jesus took his three chosen disciples up on a mountain to do many things. One of them, was to blow their sandals off.  And, whatever shortcomings they have, and however paltry Peter’s words are, they at least do the appropriate thing and fall on their faces before the Presence of the Glory of God and His Son.  This is an intimate encounter, for only a few, on an un-named mountaintop. And so, I have to believe that this isn’t just a historical tale of one of Jesus’ afternoon excursions, but is a model of Christian life.

We are to look around and search for those places and events where God knocks our socks off. And we’re to fully soak in the WOW of the moment. And maybe even fall on our faces.  It reminds us of God’s power and glory and splendor. And it reminds us of our appropriate, faithful, response: worship.  And, once we experience wonder – and help others do the same – maybe we can put the incoming-text-message-machines down… and experience joy too.  Why does Jesus shine like fire? Let’s see for ourselves, and invite others along.  When is the last time you let God blow your socks off? (From “A Garden Path”, a blog by R.M.C. Morley, available at http://www.rmcmorley.com/a-garden-path/2011/02/last-epiphany-a-shining-like-fire.html, accessed 1 March, 2011.)

 

  1. What does this passage mean for you?
  2. What does this depiction of God’s presence mean to us?
  3. In what ways, then, should we see the presence of God, or Jesus, differently?
  4. What effect does that have on how we view our own practices of faith?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

People only see what they are prepared to see. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend [God’s] kingdom of shalom—peace and wholeness—of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, or sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation.  God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us.  What can separate us from the love of God?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  And as we share God’s love with our brothers and sisters, God’s other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.  (Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream)

Change your ways, give yourself a fresh coat of paint, convert yourself.  Do all this, and you’ll find the cross before it finds you. (Thomas A’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

 

Closing

 

A Prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

Let’s go up the mountain.  Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky where the earth touches the heavens, to the place of meeting, to the place of mists, to the place of voices and conversations, to the place of listening:

 

O God, We open our eyes and we see Jesus, the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light, the light of the world, your light. May your light shine upon us. We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah, your word restoring us, showing us the way,
telling a story, your story, his story, our story. May your word speak to us.  We open our eyes and we see mist, the cloud of your presence which assures us of all we do not know
and that we do not need to fear that. Teach us to trust.  We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions, his best plans, our best plans, our missing the point, our missing the way.  Forgive our foolishness and sin.

 

We open our eyes and we see Jesus, not casting us off, but leading us down, leading us out – to ministry, to people. Your love endures forever. We open our ears and we hear your voice, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’ And we give you thanks. Amen

(Prayer by William Loader, 02/2001, available at http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/TransfigurationPrayer.htm, accessed 1 March, 2011)

Lent 3B: Standing With Fools

jesus drives out the- money-changersOLD TESTAMENT: Exodus 20: 1-17

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

This seems at first to be an odd passage to read in the middle of Lent. But keep in mind that the whole of Exodus shows the people how to stay in relationship with God and, for us, that is the whole idea of Lent. This version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus was probably written and edited in light of the exile in Babylon. It is important to see them in that context. This is hard. The people are journeying through the wilderness. Food is in short supply and nerves are raw. They have quarreled and tested God but until now, they have had no real identity, no real purpose. This is the place where they are finally aware of the intention that God has for them as a people. This is the place where their lives and their journey becomes meaningful. And God gives them this covenant. The specific laws would have been selected from among the many social and moral laws over many generations. It is probable that they did not magically drop out of the sky but rather grew out of a people’s understanding of who God was.

The people are first reminded that God has already saved them before, bringing them out of slavery, bringing them into relationship with God. But you can’t help noticing that these commandments are formative of who one is before God and how one lives in response to God. The first four commandments related to one’s relationship with God and the remaining six have to do with the relationship between human beings. It is really very simple: You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (with all that you are, with every essence of your being) And…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But God’s grace, as we are reminded, happened before any of these laws were laid down. It is expected, then, that in response to the salvific nature of God, the people will want to respond and stay in relationship with God. In Hebrew, these laws are known as the “ten words”, and for the most part are expressed in brief sentences. Tradition says that God gave these words directly to the people and then later Moses is summoned to receive the tablets on which they are written for posterity. (Exodus 24: 12-18) Torah, or “law”, is really more about teaching and positive instruction rather than a list of rules, the way we would normally interpret “laws”. Think of it more like the law that we talk about when we say “natural laws” or “the laws of nature”. It is the way things are; it is the way order, rather than chaos and relationship, rather than separation ensues. It is the way that God draws us into God. This reading continues the theme of covenant that we have had the last two weeks. The purpose of the “law”, here is to choose life. And that choice is easy to see how it relates to us in our walk to the cross and Easter.

But in our modern-day society, there are those who have tried to make these words “law” in the judicial sense, simply by displaying them in courthouses or public buildings. But they are missing the fact that these are not laws to obey but the natural way that we are called to respond to the freedom of God. In fact, these laws, unlike many others, do not sanction a certain type of government or a specific king. Rather than dictating what we should do, they depict who we are as a people of God. They are less about behavior than they are about identity—who God is, who the people are, and who we are as people of God. It is about how we relate to God, how we relate to each other, and, even, how we provide sustenance and nourishment for our faith journey. And regardless of whether or not we believe they actually dropped out of the sky, they are like manna in the wilderness, providing sustenance and life. Think of them as declarations of freedom to become who we are called to be, rather than a set of rules or regulations that force us into becoming what someone else wants us to be.

Now, admittedly, I don’t think they belong on the courthouse lawn or on the walls of a schoolroom. I think they’re bigger than that and I don’t think they can be contained. They are, yet again, the very breath and essence of the God who dances with us rather than holds court over us to make sure we follow the rules. The Decalogue is, once again, God with us. And this Season of Lent is not about following the rules or being burdened with regulations; it is about experiencing the freedom of this God who dances with us—this one God, who, alone, drives our life with a Spirit of steadfast love and the integrity of respect; this one God who offers us rest and reflection that we might delight in Creation and that we might enjoy the best that it has to offer; this one God who knows that we can only understand the love we are given if we love in return, if we honor the ones from whom we came, if we honor life and love and all of Creation; if we are honest with ourselves and with each other, and if we want the very best for our brothers and sisters. In this way we will understand this God who offers us life and all that it entails.

 

  • What is your response to this passage?
  • What meaning for covenant do you see here?
  • In what ways (if any) are these commandments formative for you?
  • What does that definitive difference between burdens and freedom mean to you?
  • What is your experience of The Ten Commandments? 

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

In the earlier part of this chapter, Paul has been bemoaning the divisions in the Corinthian church community. He starts here not really taking sides, but addressing the issue of wisdom and pointing out that wisdom in Christ is not the same as the wisdom of the world. Now, he is not attacking being “wise”, but is calling them to a more profound wisdom.

Think about it. The ugly sight of a mangled human body hanging on a cross confronts normal worldly values. In fact, in the first century, this was not a death of martyrs; this was a death of criminals and outcasts. There was nothing heroic about it. In fact, in terms of society, it would have been downright embarrassing. But these are not worldly values. And this first century church, no less than we, have tried to “clean up” this image and fit it into something that makes sense within the normalcy of the world. Paul is warning against the structures and intentions of the world that crucified Jesus and that are now trying to make it “presentable”. Because Paul is reminding us that for those wise in the ways of God, the cross is salvation.

In this Season of Lent, as we come closer and closer to the cross, we get a better and better sense of its meaning. You know, Paul’s really the only one that really ever dared to speak of the foolishness of the Cross, of the foolishness of God. And he’s right, because in terms of the world, the Cross is utter foolishness. The world says “mind your own business”; Jesus says “there is no such thing as your own business”. The world says “buy low, sell high”; Jesus says “give it all away”. The world says “take care of your health”; Jesus says “surrender your life to me”. The world says “Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own”; Jesus says “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The world says “get what you are due”; Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself”.

In his book, The Faces of Jesus, Frederick Buechner says that “if the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party…In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under delusion.” (Buechner, The Faces of Jesus, p. 61) Think about it. It is really pretty ludicrous. Here in this season, called to enter Christ’s suffering, called to follow Christ to the Cross. Are we nuts? That could kill someone!

But Paul says that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” That is why we are called to rest in God’s foolishness and relinquish our strength to God. Because, you see, God raises us up far beyond the wisdom of this world in which we live and takes our weakness unto God’s self that we might finally rely on God’s strength.

Life is not ever what we plan for it to be. It is because life is not a sterile existence that is never touched by illness or grief or hardship or suffering or deep and profound loss. Life is just Life. Perhaps it would be easier to live in a bubble or in some other sort of “Stepford-type” existence, but then that wouldn’t really be Life, now would it?   God gave us life and gave it abundantly. In terms of the world, that is sheer foolishness, but in terms of the wisdom of God, that is life.

This is the power of the cross. Maybe sometimes we make the mistake of cleaning it up too soon, of trying to wash away the wreak of death that it still holds. But the power of the cross IS the power over death. It did not just wash it away, but turned it into life. In the Byzantine tradition, this third Sunday of Lent is devoted to the Adoration of the Cross. A tray of flowers and sweet basil bears a cross in its center and is then processed around the nave as the hymn is sung: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.”–sheer foolishness if you look at it through the eyes of the world. But if you look at the Cross and recognize God’s power to make all things new, it begins to look a little different.

One of the dangers of being in church as often as I am is that it all starts to make sense. I speak of the Christian faith so casually and effortlessly that I begin to think, “Fine thing, this Christianity. Makes good sense.” And then I find myself believing all sorts of things in church that I wouldn’t let anyone put over on me in the real world. That which people would choke on in everyday speech, they will swallow if it’s in a sermon. That’s a blessing for those of us who get paid to preach Christ crucified.

And so Kierkegaard could say, “Christianity has taken a giant stride into the absurd,” and again, “Remove from Christianity its ability to shock and it is altogether destroyed. It then becomes a tiny superficial thing, capable neither of inflicting deep wounds nor of healing them.” It’s when the absurd starts to sound reasonable that we should begin to worry. “Blessed are the meek. . . .” “Thou shalt not kill.” “Love your enemies.” “Go, sell all you have and give to the poor.” Be honest now. Blessed are the meek? Try being meek tomorrow at work and see how far you get. Meekness is fine for church, but in the real world the meek get to go home early with a pink slip and a pat on the back. Blessed are those who are peacemakers; they shall get done to them what they are loath to do to others. Blessed are the merciful; they shall get it done to them a second time. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; they shall be called fanatics. As Paul says, when you hear the gospel not with Sunday-morning ears but with Monday-morning ears, it can sound foolish indeed — tragically foolish or comically foolish, depending upon one’s point of view…

Along with the world, we expected to see a savior coming to take charge on our terms. Then the parade comes, and we find that we are standing in the wrong place to get a good view. Here comes the carpenter’s son, bouncing on the back of a donkey — not coming for breakfast with [the president and his wife], or dinner with Congress, or consultations at 475 Riverside Drive. The smart ones, the ones who are well adjusted to the status quo, the ones in the know, neither see nor know — so the story goes. Here is a messiah who does not make sense. Only the very young, the very old, the women and the simpletons see him. They are standing in the right place to get a proper view. Along with the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame, the prisoners and the poor old crazed men like Paul, these “fools” see things as they really are. As for us smart ones, we know better. We know that if we work hard, achieve, get advanced degrees, adjust to the way things are, and act sensibly, we shall be in the know. It all depends on how you look at it. (From “Looking Like Fools”, by Bishop William Willimon, in The Christian Century, March 10, 1982., available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1288, accessed 5 March, 2012)

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What image does the cross hold for you?
  • In what ways do you think we try to “fit” God into our worldly values?
  • What is your notion of the “foolishness of the cross”?
  • What is your notion of the “power of the cross.”?

 

GOSPEL: John 2: 13-22

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

This is always sort of an odd passage for us because we don’t usually think of Jesus getting angry. Here, as he approaches the temple, there is all this activity blocking his way. There are those who are exchanging currencies so that people can purchase animals to be sacrificed (because foreign currency was considered “unclean” and had to first be exchanged.) (and, of course, making a little money on the side!) So he “turns the tables”—literally and figuratively. Jesus cleared the temple not because they were necessarily doing anything wrong but because the temple should be pure, clear of all merchandising, all bargaining, and reward-earning. Now before we discount this with our “God doesn’t just live in the sanctuary” bit, remember that for these first century Jewish followers, that was exactly where God lived. Just as Solomon had intended when he constructed the first temple, this second temple was THE place where God dwelled. This was the House of God. And in the inner holies of the temple was the Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling of God. So, I think Jesus probably did mean this to be taken literally to remind people that God was the master here, that this was God’s house, God’s dwelling place.

So, fast forward…our theology tells us that God dwells everywhere in our lives. Really? Everywhere? Are you sure? The temple is a metaphor for our souls, the temple where God should indeed be the master. But think about our own society. Our lives are reward-driven and because of it we live with the idea that we should get what is “due” to us. We believe that by working hard and doing the right things we will be rewarded. And often that carries into our spiritual lives. How many of us do the things we do because we think we should, because we think that it will in some way earn us points with God, or, even, because we think that we are the only ones that can do them? It is our own way of merchandising. What do we do because we love God and what do we do because we think that will reap a reward?

Meister Eckhart (13th-14th century German mystic) said that “as long as we to get something from God on some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God.” Eckhart then exhorts us to “live as if you do not exist…then God alone dwells there.”

So, where, then, do we encounter God? Where do you expect to meet God? Where do you love God? If we really take all this journey stuff seriously, in what parts of our life are we aware of God and in what parts do we fall a little short? After all, if God dwells within our souls, if our souls are the temple for God, then why is this even a question? A life of faith is supposed to be just that—a LIFE of faith. This is not a trade-off. There is no such thing as “of the world” and “of God”. God is not locked in the sanctuary and we are not seeking some reward for a job well done. Our encounter with God in the sanctuary should, in essence, propel us into the world, carrying that encounter with us. God dwells with us. The Holiest of Holies is deep within our souls. That is how we connect with God—by growing our relationship with God.

When this Gospel version by the writer that we know as John was written, it was probably already late in the first century. Paul had written his letters and was gone. The writers of the synoptic Gospels were gone. And, more importantly, this temple would have been destroyed ten or twenty years earlier in 70 C.E. during the Siege of Jerusalem. (The Temple has never been rebuilt. After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, the Dome of the Rock, or al-Aqsa Mosque, was built on the temple mount. And even though Jews are now allowed to pray at the Temple Mount—actually the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall—the mount itself is under the administrative control of the Muslim Waqf.)   So, the Christian tradition holds that the temple is not needed, that Christ and we as followers of Christ are to become God’s dwelling place in the world.  Boy, that Jesus was a troublemaker wasn’t he? Look at that…he just turned everything over on our lives. So what do we do now?

 

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What does it mean for you to be a “temple” of God?
  • What would it mean to “live as if you do not exist”?
  • Do we live our lives the way we do (or should!) because we want to please God or because we love God?

 

 

Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 The world dies whenever reality demands absolute dominion. (Amery, on the wall of the Israel Holocaust Museum)

 Spirituality is the ability to live with ambiguity. (Ray Anderson)

 We are what we repeatedly do. (Aristotle)

 

Closing

 

Going through Lent is a listening, When we listen to the word, we hear where we are so blatantly unloving. If we listen to the word, and hallow it into our lives, we hear how we can so abundantly live again.

 Lord, teach us to listen. Teach us to be quiet. Teach us to hear. Amen.

(Paraphrased from “A Listening”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 33)