December 20, 2014 - The Temple, The Presence of God

December 20, 2014 - The Temple, The Presence of God
Jeremy D. Scott

Psalm 138

I bow down towards your holy temple...
Last summer I was able to visit the Temple Mount while in Jerusalem, Israel. I had greatly looked forward to going to the Holy City to see and walk the sites closest to our biblical story. While I am glad that I went and wholeheartedly recommend that people visit Israel if they reasonably can, the experience was different than I might have imagined it would be. The Temple Mount itself - while impressive - did not move me toward God. The experience was memorable, but if I was hoping to meet God in more powerful ways there, I was disappointed. Rather, the message that I felt like I received - one that I received at many of the places in the Holy Land - reiterated to me that much of our experience as humans is humanly-created. In short, I felt God say to me:
I am not bound by these places.
I am not contained in your buildings.
I am everywhere.

By coming to earth, Christ changed a lot of things, didn’t he? The Temple that was in Jerusalem was perceived by Israel to be prescribed by God through Moses as a central place for the presence of God. But now it is little more to Christians than a historical memory and a symbol setting the stage for certain important understandings of what God did for us through Christ’s sacrifice (the “atonement”). The Temple is part of our family photo album, but it is not necessary for faith and we certainly don’t believe that it contains any more of the presence of God than the people who bear his name do.

The New Testament writers often use the image of the Temple to remind us just where God does abide today. There is indeed a temple, but it is no architectural building. God’s presence abides in his people, the Church, the Body of Christ. The presence of God is ushered in not by stone arches ornamented with gold or by fire on a pedestal-altar. Nor is God hidden behind a curtain. The presence of God abides with you and me together, as his Church.

This is the essence of Christ coming, no? I invite you to read that psalm again and replace any notions of “temple” as a building with “temple” as Christ. It’s a few days early, but maybe you can even picture that act of bowing down as to the little Christ-child himself, the very presence of God:

I bow down towards your holy temple
   and give thanks to your name
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
   for you have exalted your name and your word
   above everything.

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