Last week, we left Job sitting in sackcloth and ashes poor man, but at least wood ash is more comfortable than cinders. His friends might well have called in at the Temple on their way home, that awesome construction that King Solomon had built to complement his fabulous palace. Having finished it, and feeling well satisfied, Solomon in all his legendary wisdom and wealth was ready to receive a visit from the equally rich Queen of Sheba. While awaiting her arrival, (not now Arthur), he too received a word from the Lord.
“Very impressive cathedral,” God said, “but remember, it means less than nothing to me if the people who worship there are living double lives. If you, as king, follow all my commands and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your throne for ever, but if you forsake me, and turn away and go off to serve other gods, you and all your people will be uprooted.” Unthinkable, but fair enough surely; if God’s people, known by His name, don’t follow His commandments, there are sure to be consequences. After many years of serial non-compliance, idolatry, corruption and injustice, there were consequences, serious consequences. Invasion, humiliation and deportation for a whole generation of people.
“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion,” (i.e.Jerusalem). God would give them 70 years in exile to consider their position, miles away from any temple of the Lord.
As Jesus later made clear in his conversation with a woman drawing water however, places and buildings aren’t what really matter to God. What matters is that we worship in Spirit and in truth, our everyday lives aligned to what we profess in hymns and prayers on Sundays. Of course, we love our churches and all that they represent, with their feeling of peace and sanctity and of being steeped in the praises and prayers of generations past. We love the sense of fellowship, but even an empty church should have a feeling of expectancy about it. It only needs the people, the light and the sounds of music and voices to bring it alive. Or dancing even! Yes, let’s dance - fling wide the gates!
Right now though, it’s like we’re in exile too, a time to discover more about ourselves and our faith. Time to consider the consequences of the ways we have been living. Is it about 70 days now, Jim?
(Extracts from 2 Chronicles, Psalm 137 and John 4) TBC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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