Other Temples

You can listen to this reflection here.  Sunday’s gospel reading is here

The temple complex where Jesus cast out purveyors of sacrificial animals and turned the tables on money changers was the second one since King Solomon’s splendid edifice. Foreign powers overrunning your small nation can be hard on the architecture. The plans for this rebuild must have been ambitious, for at this point it is decades into construction and still not finished.

The temple leaders did not eject Jesus after his scene. But they sure had a few questions for him: “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The leaders then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body.

It’s an audacious challenge Jesus lays down – and a safe bet, as there’s no way they would have risked harming the temple. (Within forty or so years, the Romans would demolish it.) The leaders take his words literally – “You’re going to raise it up in three days?” But our narrator tells us what Jesus apparently does not tell his interlocutors, that he’s not talking about the bricks and mortar in which God was said to dwell on earth. He is talking about the fullest revelation of God on earth – himself, the Son of God, made human flesh and yet containing the fullness of the Godhead.

During his time on this earth, Jesus was this living temple, Emmanu-el, God with us, mediating the presence of God to those who drew near. That’s where his power to heal and teach and forgive came from, God in him. That’s why he was so threatening to those who held power. They couldn’t put their finger on why he was so unsettling – it was God in him. That’s a pretty scary force.

But God’s plan was even bigger. Jesus told his followers that after his ascension God would send his Holy Spirit upon all flesh; that happened at Pentecost. Now anyone who believes that Jesus is Lord becomes a temple in which God’s presence is made known to the world – not little “gods,” but vessels of the one true God. That’s why Paul exhorts us to honor our bodies and treat them with holy reverence – because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Wow.

Does it feel like God’s presence is powerfully present in us? Do we feel like temples? We are also vessels of accumulated detritus that has nothing holy about it, that in fact can obscure the holy in us. The work of the spiritual life is to become aware of, name, and transform everything in us that is not holy, and to become aware of, name and lift up all that is. Gradually the God-Life in us becomes more and more apparent and the natural, passing-away life dims.

How might we become more conscious of our “temple-dom?” Like any spiritual practice, we can develop this with, yes, practice. Sow reminders into your day – when you eat something healthy, when you take a rest, when you stop and pray, when you offer a kind word. “Oh yeah – I am God’s temple.” We can also remind each other, when we make choices that are destructive or not life-giving – “Hey, remember, the Spirit of God wants to hang out  in you.”

There are those who await a third temple to be built as a sign of God’s reign breaking out. The third temple is already here. Christ-followers can see that it every time we look at one another, for God’s reign has already broken out and we are helping it spread.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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