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Worship, Sunday, March 3, 2024

General Outline of the Sermon:

You receive a text message from your friend. Turn on the news. Your church has caught fire. 

What do you think would be going on in your mind? I’m sure it’s not happiness.

Feeling a sense of loss. 

What’s the sorrow you’d feel?

An image of the church might appear in your mind. The place where your child was baptized, where your wedding was held, the pew where you sit every Sunday, and the people around you. 

What’s the daycare going to do? What’s going to happen now? 

Where will we be as a community? Will we ever worship together again? 

That’s what happened in 70 A but the feeling was more intense. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Once the news reached Jews and Jewish Christians in Galilee, Athens, and Rome, hearing the news would have devastated them–whether or not they had seen the Temple in person. 

Imagine the anguish of those who had seen its majesty; They remembered as they moved from the outer to inner courts. They remembered its ornate features, remembered its smells and sounds. 

“The Jewish Virtual Library describes the Temple “as a building of shining white marble and gold and the entrance doors were decorated in bronze., it was said that you could not look at the Temple in the daylight because it would blind you. When the pilgrims arrived, they would have heard the sounds of people studying and talking with rabbis and Levites singing and playing musical instruments.  At the center of the Temple was the holy of holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter this inner sanctum, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.” 

The Holy of Holies in the temple was thought to be a spiritual path between earth and heaven. 

It is where God dwelled with God’s people.

Losing the Temple was the most destructive religious moment in the first century for Jews and perhaps the second worst for Jewish followers of Christ. It would be akin to the destruction of the Vatican or when Notre Dame burned. 

Remember that day? Six days before Easter, the streets of Paris and millions of people around the earth watched Notre Dame burn. Religious and secular alike were devasted. It wasn’t only a place of worship and prayer. It was a symbol of Paris. 

Now, By the time the Gospel of John was written, the Temple had been destroyed.  

All four Gospels have Jesus entering the Temple and causing a scene, but this Gospel places it at the beginning. 

That might seem odd, but we need to be mindful of what the writers of each Gospels were doing. 

Biblical writers weren’t as concerned with the chronological order of events as we are today. They were making theological, ethical, and moral statements. They took everything that Jesus said, what he meant to his disciples, and what he meant to people at the time of their writing, and they compiled together a coherent case for their understanding of the good news of Jesus.

John writes this to clarify that he wants us to focus on Christ because he was resurrected, and because of his resurrection, we too, through our worship, can be close to him.

Closeness with Christ is manifested through—our worship.  

And cannot be contained in one Temple, one building, or one cathedral. 

Christians didn’t worship in massive cathedrals for the first three hundred years. The first places of worship were at homes. There’s a difference between a church building and a church. Church is where Christians gather together to worship, praise and give thanks to Christ. Church buildings give us a place to do so, yet we must never forget that the church is where the people are. 

I want to personalize this. 

Each one of us can make ourselves aware of this closeness with Christ through daily worship. I finding have a path of least resistance is helpful. 

You might be like me and need something simple and meditative that you can pray throughout your day. 

“Draw close to me, O Christ. Guide my heart towards you. May we be one.” 

“Draw close to me, O Christ. Guide my heart towards you. May we be one.” 

“Draw close to me, O Christ. Guide my heart towards you. May we be one.” 

Thank you. God. Amen.