tent. temple. intentional.

20 10 2010

god in the garden

God began revealing himself in a garden. Then a bush. He continued to reveal himself through action and experience. The people wanted to carry him with them on their travels and being humans needed some formalised structure, so they carried the Ark and plonked it in a tent. The tent became the sanctuary. The holy place.

When the people became settled the tent became permanent. They built walls, structures, created rules. Who can go in, who can’t. When you can go, when you can’t. How much you paid. The tent became the Temple, God on the move became stationary. Instead of him coming to you, you had to go to him.

Jesus came along and blew that whole idea out of the water. Or at least, he tore the curtain separating God from the people in two, he destroyed the Temple and all it stood for, it’s separation and exclusion. He revealed God, exposed to the world, naked, vulnerable. Dead. And resurrected. Everything changed.  The Temple was no longer the focus, because God no longer lived there. He made us holy. He lived in here, in us. We became the Temple.

We don’t go to him. He came to us.

The thing is, how often does church feel like a return to the Temple model? You have to go there where priests do special things, God is especially present and worship is organised. The building gains an importance because of what happens there. It becomes the centre, the focus. The outside becomes devalued, the furniture becomes valued. The community becomes devalued, the priests valued.

god iin the temple

Every now and then we need to make a stand against this. Remind ourselves. Especially us Anglicans who confuse the issue by using words like priest, altar and sacrifice. God does not live in church buildings or services. God is present, of course; God loves it when we gather in once place as the people of God and worship him. When we his people gather and worship he may make himself feel especially present; but we do not invoke him, summon him, magic him by our words or prayers or actions. God is present in us, his people.

Church is not a temporary tent nor the permanent Temple. Whilst worship in the church is the powerhouse of the rest of our mission, as a friend recently reminded me, worship does not rest solely in the building, with a priest, and special words. Intentional worship is essential, but our lives are worship – from the way we do our relationships to how give our money; from the way we do our daily work to the picking up of dog poo in your neighbourhood. It’s worship, but unintentionally. Naturally. Instinctively.

May we keep encountering God wandering in the (urban) garden, rather than trying to force him back in the Temple. And may we be encouraged and inspired as we gather for intentional worship, but not devalue the rest of our lives lived in worship. However unintentional.

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6 responses

20 10 2010
carrie

Thanks for this Kevin – it puts church building into perspective and puts the Church of Christ where it should be – among everyone.

20 10 2010
c2drl

Yes indeed. I guess you could also say that we don’t need Priests to bridge then gap and go into the Holy of Holies on our account, because God is everywhere and he comes directly to us when we let him.

Of course there are some people who are gifted to encourage people into God’s presence and who seem to radiate his Spirit and it is good to set them apart for that work. But then does it matter whether they are men or women, straight or gay, of one particular theological persuasion or another? Perhaps our obsession with these things is bound up in our Temple model. Happily God doesn’t recognise our boundaries and works in his own way.

I am really glad God is like he is and not how we try to make him.

20 10 2010
carol

The bible says… Jesus went to the Temple as was his custom.
Jesus was also to be found among the people.

Both are given significance by His presence.

I suppose the question is…is He a living reality in our daily life, not just on Sundays?

21 10 2010
cress

admittedly I’ve never been to my local church for service, but any other time I have been to church I have not felt a spiritual connection. Strangely, I feel spiritual when I am cooking so go with that instead. Like you say, lots of ways lead to the same thing I reckon.

22 10 2010
Kevin

Hi Cress, great to have you on board! Feeling spiritual when cooking is cool, as long as it doesn’t affect the dinner!

I know what you mean when you say sometimes churches don’t feel ‘spiritual’. Maybe that is a style thing, an expectation thing, a boredom thing… sometimes it is because what happens in church often only makes sense if you go regularly, by its very nature, so we shouldn’t expect a ‘connection’ straight away, especially if it is in the context of baptisms/weddings/funerals, when most people aren’t looking for a connection with God particularly anyway! (gasp!)

Sometimes people don’t expect a ‘spiritual’ feeling or they shy away from it, but the fact you have that at all in our culture is a great place to start. Worship of God, as revealed by Jesus and present by his Holy Spirit, is a deeply spiritual thing and can happen anywhere, is not restricted to a particular building, time or place, and I am trying to encourage awareness of that.

‘Worship’ is different from ‘feeling spiritual’, but they are certainly connected! Keep cooking…!

…if that makes sense!

26 10 2010
cress

Yes that makes sense, a spiritual connection wouldnt be the sole point of going to church. I think with the worship thing, I have the same feeling when i’m out in the fields and feeling true admiration for everything God created, as you say, not limited to the church environment. Although I could certainly see why some people would.
i love debating christian stuff by the way so you’ll never get rid of me now! 🙂

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