Thursday, November 19, 2015

8 Days...

Tomorrow's first reading talks more about the Maccabean revolt.  After they finally got rid of all the things that they found to be offensive from the temple area and fought off the gentiles, these men began to rebuild the temple.  They restored some of the fine art, decorative touches, doors, and even rebuilt the altar.  Then they offered sacrifice in the temple to rededicate it to God.  These would be celebrated every year after for 8 days.  Another legend says that a miracle occurred during one of these eight day periods that allowed the candles to burn for eight days, when they should only have burnt for one.   This is the meaning behind the Jewish Holy Day(s), Hanukkah.

Then we see in the Gospel from Luke another man cleansing the temple from things that are found to be offensive, Jesus Christ himself.  The money changers had set up an exchange of sorts, to make it easier for those travelling to the Holy Land for pilgrimage to offer sacrifice to God.  That in an of itself might even be considered honorable.  The problem seems to be that they were not only not taking worship very seriously, but they were cheating the poor.  Price gouging, changing money at exorbitant amounts, turning something that could have been for a noble and glorious purpose, into a way to extort money from those who had even less to give.

Jesus reminded them how serious it is to worship God and that our primary focus is prayer!  Our relationship with God needs to be paramount, and next to it, our relationship to one another.  God does not want us getting between others and him.  He doesn't want us hindering them.  He doesn't want us making it inconvenient or difficult.  While it's important that we teach the truth, some of us want to make it so very hard.   They want hurdles in the way.  To separate sinners from the 'saved'.  The church is not a museum for the pious and perfect, it is rather a hospital for us sinners.  None of us should be sitting between the entrance and the sanctuary 'charging' more than necessary to aid others to get in. 

What does that look like in action? It tells us that many were annoyed by him and wanted to put him to death.  Thanks be to God that none of us ever get annoyed with people anymore, or complain because they want to do things in a new way eh? ;)   What happened though?  The people, it says they "were hanging on his words."   Jesus reached them where they were.  He shared himself and God with them.  He did it in a way that engaged them, astounded them, welcomed them.  That is our challenge I think, to make church not a place of hoops, but one of first and foremost holiness, a consecrated area set aside for God... but at the same time, like unto it, welcoming.

How do we apply that to our own lives?  We are the domestic church.  Are our homes welcoming?  Do our words make people feel loved and appreciated?  Do we share ourselves with others completely, pouring ourselves out that they might 'hang on every word'?  Or do we avoid interacting with others?  Do we close 'our borders' to protect our family from the world and never allow anyone else in?  I heard someone today in a conversation about this whole Syria refugee crisis declare that "Charity starts at home!  We need to take care of our people, not theirs!" Is that truly the attitude we should have? For me charity should start at home.. in the means that we need to teach our kids what true charity looks like.  It doesn't mean that charity never extends beyond our walls.  The same with our country. 

Too many want it to be we need to take care of our veterans or the refugees.   As the very popular taco bell commercial declares, por que no los dos?  Why can't we take care of both? Is there not enough love?  Not enough land?  Not enough resources?  Do we really need our Starbucks cups so much that we spend time and resources on getting snow flakes back on them, but can't see a way to take care of those less needy?  I am just as guilty as the next.  When I was shopping today I grabbed several things I didn't need, but I wanted to eat them.  The money from that could have been used for a veteran.  For a refugee.  For so many things that are much more worthy than my gullet. 

So in retrospect, I think the real message here is:

Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It is time for you to really let Jesus in.  I don't mean just on the outside, but let him into the dark, the dank, the dirty areas.. let him turn over your tables.   Let him drive those things in you that are less than what he created you to be out of the temple.  Then let him take up residence there.  I think if we all do that, if every Christian in the world let's God consume us from the inside out... yes, if we just take a moment to stop forming God in our own image.. but rather let us be formed in His image... into the man/woman we were created to be.. then.. then we'll have enough faith, enough resources, enough hope... to take care of both the veteran and the refugee.. and anyone in between.