The third kind of worship is that of thanksgiving for the goods we have received. We must thank God for all created things, and show Him perpetual worship, as from Him and through Him all creation takes its being and subsists. (Col. 1.16-17) He gives lavishly of His gifts to all, and without being asked. He wishes all to be saved, (I Tim. 2.4) and to partake of His goodness. He is long-suffering with us sinners. He allows His sun to shine upon the just and unjust, and His rain to fall upon the wicked and the good alike. (Mt. 5.45) And being the Son of God, He became one of us for our sakes, and made us partakers of His divine nature, so that: "we shall be like unto Him," (I Jn. 3.2) as St John says in his Catholic epistle. — St John of Damascus
This week, we read about the clearing of the temple from John 2. Before you read this any further, go and read Jeremiah 7.
Oh, you are back. Good. Let us proceed then. Did anything in Jeremiah strike you as familiar? Like verse 11 perhaps? As followers of Jesus we go to worship and we say silly things like: “Holy be your name,” and “Thy will be done,” and “Thy kingdom come,” and “Glory to you, Oh Lord.” We cry, well at least we read off the page: “Have mercy on us, Lamb of God,” and “forgive us our sins,” we take a breath as if that was its own phrase, and then continue as if with another phrase: “As we forgive those who trespass against us.”
A Temple is a good thing. One can and one is well advised to go there and make atoning sacrifice for ones sin. Having done that, one walks away. Will one say with John Cleese: “Well that’s enough of that then,” and live an unamended life? OK, I will grant that there are no shrines of Baal around any longer. But even if we leave outright idolatry out of the picture, Jeremiah has us pegged with verse 7:5-6 and 9 and all those connect idolatry and the lack of God’s will being done.
But, says Jerusalem: “We are safe.” (Jer 7:10) It is like saying: “God forgives so we got that going for us no matter what else we do. We do what we want, we make sacrifice, and we are fine.” Does it really work that way?
Is a church ever a den of thieves? Can it ever become like the Jerusalem temple? That temple had become in Jeremiah’s time a place of dispensing security to the unrepentant in the form of bought and paid for forgiveness in the form of making sacrifice for sins committed by those who had by the time that the smoke of the sacrifice had ascended already recommitted the same sin. That seems to be the complaint of Jeremiah. The sacrifice had taken on a life of its own. The struggle with sin had been abandoned along with any hope for a life of holiness.
What does one do when God has left the temple? What happens when God calls in the heathen to destroy the temple? How will our sins be forgiven?
Kozlov’s Pilgrim is on a much better way. Slowly he wanders across the land and recites: “God be merciful on me, a sinner.” He mutters it as he comes upon the poor and the annoying and must deal with them with his own voice reminding him: “You are dust, a sinner who will return to his dust.” Will he be merciful as he prays for mercy? Will he battle sin within his bones?
It is easy to tell ourselves that all of life is to be worship of the living God and it no doubt is, as Jeremiah observes. But if that is so, how does the temple, no, how does the church fit into that life? It is easy to become the Herodian temple. You forgive sin, show people nothing but compassion and a good cup of coffee and send them on their way. Be comfortable, God has forgiven you, God loves you and we receive you because we are inclusive. We are teaching a pastor’s class on Tuesday night, it explains our church, maybe you want to join. McDonalds will help you eat. They will not help you loose weight, even if it is obvious that you are eating yourself to death. The church needs to do better.
Lent is a fast and the 3rd Sunday in Lent is Homing Sunday. It is the Church’s mothers’ day. Go home and return to your origin and root. Lent is half over. Have you fought sin and faced temptation? Now may be a good time to adjust your lenten discipline. You were to fight sin not give up chocolates — which you intend to take back up on Easter Sunday anyhow. They are already in the cupboard.
But in the large scope of things it is important to tend the temple to the Holy Spirit that you are to be. (1 Cor 6) Pardon and forgiveness are not contractual obligations. God can and does tear down corrupt temples. They become dens of thieves when they make our relationship with God a business type transaction. Woe to the temple that only forgives but never calls to righteousness and knows nothing of obedience.