Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Lasts?

Tuesday, June 19
Scripture Reading--Revelation 21:22-22:5

 This passage near the end of this puzzling and sometimes disturbing book envisions the story of our salvation as having come full circle.  It paints a beautiful picture of a glorious city where all the injustices and evils of Babylon are overcome.  In this city, much like the paradise of the Garden of  Eden,  where the story of our faith begins, we see a river with, not the tree of knowledge of good and evil that leads to death, but the tree of life with leaves that provide for the healing of the nations.  It’s a beautiful picture anticipating the fullness of God’s kingdom.  But one of the most striking features of this city is stated in verse 22, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”  According to the New Interpreters’ Bible this is no small matter.  This aspect of the vision of the eternal city reflects an ongoing tension in the Bible about the role of physical places of worship in the spiritual life of God’s people.    In some respects, the vision of the city without a physical temple signifies the triumph of the conviction that the amount of time and money people spend on buildings can be a detriment to relating to a God who is spirit.  But, if spiritual ideals aren’t given some physical form and we as human beings do not have sacred places to help us connect with God, will those ideals, great as they might be, stand the test of time?  This question puts challenging questions to those of us who treasure beautiful places of worship.   “How do we gratefully use buildings built by human hands as tools that help us encounter a living God who transcends any physical form?  How do we prevent our love and respect for those buildings from becoming the main focus of our work as God’s people?  How do we discern what is of lasting importance as God’s people so that our buildings are tools for mission for a God who transcends all boundaries of time and space, rather than tethers that prevent us from moving freely into God’s future?”

 Thought for the day:  As important as sacred places of worship may be for our faith, they are only meant to be temporary tools that point us and others to the one true God known in Christ whose presence can never be contained in any human edifice, no matter how beautiful.

 Prayer:  O God, thank you for beautiful places of worship where we experience your presence.  But help us never to become so attached to those places that we lose sight of the fact that your presence in the world can never be contained by any physical location.  Help us never to put the maintenance of buildings over your call to go where your mission sends us.  Amen. 

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