Thursday, October 18, 2012

Profaning the Temple

This past Sunday, Jonathan gave us an overview of the mobile Hebrew tent, the tabernacle.
It's a nutty word. Tabernacle. Similar to Kalamazoo; It gets your whole mouth involved when you say it and has the added value of sounding like a magic spell. (Wave a wand while saying "tabernacle kalamazoo" ominously and then let me know if anything worthy of Hogwarts occurs.)

Tabernacle literally means "observation tavern", which I'd argue makes a great name for a church. Attendance would probably be significant at the Observation Tavern, as long as service wasn't too early. As Jonathan covered sunday, the tabernacle's design and structure was meticulous as well as metaphoric inside and out. Though this mobile tent finally gave way to a permanent structure known as the temple (despite God never asking for that architectural graduation), the original concept of a mobile tent of God, with animal skin on the outside and the Spirit of God at its heart carry all the through the New Testament to today.

It's an astounding concept.

"We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people'."  2 Corinthians 6:16

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? " 1 Corinthians 6:19 

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 

To the extent that I embrace this reality, it makes me say wow. And then, whoa. And then...after some reflection... ugh.

I'm God's dwelling place. You and I tote the almighty. And since you and I are nothing approaching perfect, this means God takes up residence in our love and purity as well as our selfishness and animalistic settling. As the idea of YHWH living in me, and more meaningfully, with in us, takes hold I find myself feeling like a kid thats been doing yard jobs in his dad's car only to find out dad's been in the passenger seat the whole time. Hey dad, how long have you been there? All along? Soooo.... you don't just 'know what I did', but because of my lack of awareness, I've made you part of it. I wish I could magically disappear....KALAMAZOO!...ahem....still here huh?

But there's something about all this far more profound to me as I embrace what it means to take part in being the temple of the Divine. To be skin on the outside and God's Spirit at my center. Once again, as I mature, the whole discussion sprints far past "good and bad", or a tension between behaving and misbehaving. It's something more about the actual transformation of human beings. The faith of my childhood, and of my childishness, is behavior control and being guilted (even intimidated) into a non-naughty conformity. But I'm discovering once again it's more about accepting Christ's invitation into full, whole life.

Today, I've been thinking about the word profane in relation to all of this. We use the form "profanity" more often. When we use these words, most of us think of something bad that's gotten on something good. A profanity is a bad word that's come out of what was supposed to be a good mouth (or a bad word from a bad mouth into a good ear. Either way, something pure has been soiled). A profane image could be a sacrilegious painting or sculpture or even act that flies in the face of accepted morality.

The word is an interesting one. It breaks down as pro fanus, meaning "out in front of the temple". It's not inside the sacred space, but has been cast out. Though this does have the simplistic connotation of not being "good enough" to inhabit the sacred space, it becomes more dynamic as we think about us brothers and sisters actually being the sacred space. More so when what makes us that sacred space, that mobile tent of God's Spirit, isn't our goodness but God's.

Many of us have grown up thinking of sacred buildings as things we made. But sacred buildings are things God makes. Us. Profaning the temple is that which doesn't honor what God is up to in us and through us, and is out of accord with the Christ who makes us sacred. So running in church doesn't profane the temple. Yelling at the running kids our of unbridled irritability, or calling the one who did the yelling a grumpy jerk- these are the profaning of the temple of God.

We profane the temple when we act selfishly, a direct contrast to the others-centered Spirit of the Christ. We profane the temple when we treat our bodies, or those of others', as mere centers for appetite and appetite satisfaction.
We profane the the temple when we withhold forgiveness until people pay us for their sins.
We profane the temple when we cease to live in the honesty of faith and mystery, instead demanding answers and shunning natural human doubt and thus demanding pretense.
We profane the temple when we choose self-preserving, self-assured fear over courageous acts of service to others that can't or won't reciprocate.
We profane the temple every time we give into the belief that we are better than others. As though we possess the Spirit by grace while others have to prove themselves to us for that same honor.

In short, we profane the temple of a cosmic behavior police by failing to act and speak in accordance with its purity code. But, for those that tote the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Ultimate giver and lover of others, we profane his temple when we do anything that contrasts his grace and love.

To my fellow sacred architecture: May we be better than good, or merely not bad. May we live in a way that reflects He that lives at our core.

No comments: