1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Peace be with you!
I loved my church as a child. We had a talented choir, caring people who looked past my Cerebral Palsy, and gifted pastors who reached out to all ages. Plus, my church was fully handicap-accessible. As a youngster, I left my electric wheelchair at home because my parents could not easily transport it, so someone in the congregation donated a recliner for me to sit in during Sunday School since sitting in the normal chairs was too hard for me. Unlike my experience in other churches, the pastors included me during the children’s sermon. In fact, the congregation included me in all of their activities. I always looked forward to Sunday morning, because it meant going to church and seeing people who accepted me, despite my Cerebral Palsy.
As I became an adult and moved away, however, church became a building where I went when I had time. My new congregation welcomed me and found ways to include me, but it was not the same, because I did not have time to be involve in the community. Luckily, I found the Campus Ministry Center where I became a peer minister and led Bible studies and group activities. Worship was done outside of the church building. For the first time, I realized the church was just a building where we formally gathered to worship, but it was not the only place to worship.
In John 2:13-22, Jesus challenges the sacrificial system, which is centered around the temple. A marketplace had grown up in the outer temple courts so travelers could buy animals to buy to sacrifice. Since the temple was the only place sacrifices could be made, people traveled from all over the country to offer sacrifices to God in order to demonstrate their repentance. The sacrificial system was the way individuals pleased God and were made right in his eyes.
When onlookers ask Jesus what gives him the authority to destroy the marketplace in the temple, Jesus tells them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (verse 19, NIV). This cryptic remark, John goes on to show, actually refers to the temple of Jesus’ body. When Jesus challenges the need for the marketplace in the temple, he also challenges the Jews to accept a new way to worship. For the Jews, the temple symbolized the presence of God; they went to the temple to encounter and see God.
Jesus is pointing to a deeper, more personal relationship people can have with God. Two chapters later in John 4, Jesus will say to the Samaritan woman, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem….a time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (4:21, 23, NIV).
Do you go to church to be close to God? We often forget the sermon once we leave building – or at least I do. We live in the world where Satan dwells, where corruption lives, where kids show up to school to shoot other kids, where people do not help their neighbors–and the list goes on. Where is God in all of this? Does he stay in the church building?
No! Jesus comes into the world as God to walk with us. He comes to feel our pain, to suffer alongside us, and to walk with us in the world. We have never been so close to God before; we can touch and feel God now. Jesus’ death on the cross became the last sacrifice and it was made by God so that we all might be forgiven. The promise of the resurrection gives us hope for the future.
You may be saying, “Well, that is all fine and dandy, but Jesus died two thousand years ago. We cannot see, feel, or hear him now.” And I say, “We can’t?” True, Jesus died two thousand years ago, but he continues to be with us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus feels our pain and draws us to him through the Holy Spirit. And there is no place the Holy Spirit cannot reach us.
Jesus invites us to be in a community with him and with other Christians. Paul even described all of us together as God’s Temple (I Corinthians 6:19, 12:12-14) We are able to worship as a community where the individuals share a connection with the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And with the community, the promise of being in a relationship with God now and in the future is shared and honored. The temple is no longer a physical location; instead, the community of two or more believers becomes the tangible way we can connect with God (Matthew 18:19-20). And so we can worship God wherever we are!
In college, I was involved in the Lutheran Student Movement, which is a pan-Lutheran organization. Every New Year’s weekend, hundreds of college students gather in a different city each year to share their faith in Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. My favorite part of this gathering was a late-night open mic session. People would sing, read poetry, do a stand-up comedy routine, read from the Bible, etc. In those moments, we worshiped God as a community, even though we were not in a church building and hardly knew each other. However, our common faith in the Triune God quickly made us a community, and therefore, this community became a temple of worship to God!
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus Christ. Help us to express our faith outwardly in order to share the blessing of your community with others. Guide us as we become your living temple. Thank you for making us your temple. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Where do you find God?
2. Where and when do you worship? Who do you gather with?