Advent Week 4: Temples

Are you the one to build me a house to live in? (2 Samuel 7:5)

I was talking with a pastor a while back about his church building.  He is the pastor of a thriving church, but every year, the building becomes more and more of a burden.  It’s moldy, outdated, and just hard to maintain.  I won’t go into all the details, but the church’s options are very limited, and yet they love their dear old building.

Lots of churches are stuck in this position, or an even worse one.  My heart goes out to churches in places that have been de-populated in recent years (due to industry moving away, et cetera) and are wondering how to keep the lights on.

In many ways, a building is helpful for Christ’s ministry today.  Lots of folks preach on street corners, but it would be hard to pay attention and learn in that environment, even from the best preacher.

In other ways, our churches’ buildings have become temples.

This particular Old Testament reading from 2 Samuel appears this week, in part (I believe) to drive home the point that God’s temple is anywhere his people go.  He doesn’t need a building.  People get the idea in their head to construct a magnificent structure to honor God, but we don’t stop to ask first if God really wants us to do that.

And after we build these temples, they can actually get in the way.  What do we do with them then?

As we approach Christmas and get ready to celebrate the birth of One born far away from any temple or other “officially” holy place, it may be useful for us to reflect on temples.  Consider how you have built unneeded temples in other areas of life.  Not buildings necessarily, but foundations and patterns that become overbearing and burdensome.

For example, you may be stuck in the ever-growing temple of Christmas gifts (if you gave someone a room-size TV in 2010, can you top that in 2011?)  Perhaps you are like the character of the father in Little Miss Sunshine who has built a temple out of the idea that someday he’ll make it big, and forces his family to carve out space for themselves around this idea.  Or maybe you have constructed a temple to your own opinions, and you’re finding that the temple is empty.

God appoints a place for God’s people.  Does it really matter what that place looks like, or where it is?

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