Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent, Day 14

For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts. - Haggai 2

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” - Matthew 24

I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the God of surpassing strength and the Lamb.  - Revelation 21

A house will be built; a house will be destroyed.
Moving into our first house in 1999;
wedding preparations in the background

The first house Christy and I lived in after getting married has been destroyed to make way for new condos. This makes me sad. The house was only about a hundred years old, yet it had become inconvenient. I guess it just didn't provide enough space for people in that neighborhood to lay down their heads.

Yet in my memory, that house will always exist. It is the house where we invited friends over to dinner once a week early in our marriage. It is the house from which our car was stolen (we got it back a few weeks later). I remember dance parties and yard sales and family visits and being hooked on certain TV shows. I remember election night 2000 and watching the news on and after 9/11. I remember walking to and from work every day, all summer long, because the house wasn't that far from downtown.

One of the central themes of the Bible is that of building a house for God. It's always a well-intentioned effort, but can it really be done? And once it is done, must that temple stand forever? The ancient Jews built the temple twice, and both times it was eventually destroyed -- first by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., and then by the Romans in 70 C.E.

Each temple destruction rocked the Jewish world and forced the people to make new meaning of their lives and their relationship with God. Haggai wrote at a time when the temple was to be rebuilt; Jesus lived at a time shortly before that same temple was torn down. The Revelation to John assures its hearers that it's actually OK that the temple has been destroyed, because God, God's own self, is the temple. The Lamb refers to Jesus, the slaughtered, crucified one who makes it possible for us to pass over from death into life.

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus says, "Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." When the master architect of the universe predicts demolition, I know that there must be a larger blueprint at work. No matter how attached I was to that little house on Bellevue Avenue, its destruction does not destroy my marriage. In the same way, any house we build for God must be seen necessarily as temporary, and as a well-intentioned but ultimately unimportant gesture. God is God, and instead of needing us to build God a house, God is coming to make a home within us. Let every heart prepare a room.

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