Sitting here after sun rise on Halong Bay having seen a number of temples over the last two weeks I wondered how many of us halongHhhhhhhhhhalongHHave ever thought about holy temples? A temple is usually understood to be a place where religious services are held. The Christian Bible is full of references to the temple in Jerusalem. Most of us know of synagogues today that are called temples. Some Protestant churches are occasionally called temples. The Mormons use the term temple for their place of worship. So, we know about temples.
Holy is a word we use to describe sacred places and things. Holy things are things set apart for God. A holy place is one set apart for God. Therefore, a holy temple is a sacred place set apart for God where often-times we worship God. So, the church we are in on a Sunday or at some point in our lives is holy.
We, at times, talk about people we know as being holy. Sometimes it is saints and martyrs who we refer to as being holy. Other times it is people in our own times, people we know, whom we refer to as holy, since we believe they are truly people of God; people in whom Jesus is present. At times Christians pray that they may be made a holy temple acceptable to God. Have you ever thought what that means? Have you ever thought about yourself as being a holy temple of God? Do you ever think about whether you are acceptable to God? Do you ponder if you have a right relationship with God or not? Do you ever wonder if God will find you to be a holy person?
All of us would like to be found acceptable to God. Maybe that is why many of us keep some connection to the church. We know we are on a journey. We are striving to find a right relationship with the word and maybe to God. Many go to church, to worship God in hope that God will answer their prayers and help to find answers to our questions; to help us grow into a right relationship with each other and with God.
Many of us would like to think that God would make us into a holy temple. But many of us may struggle to figure out what we need to do to bring it about. In the Hebrew Scripture from Deuteronomy set for this Sunday, we hear Moses tell the people they are to open their hand to the poor and needy people of the land, giving willingly, liberally and ungrudgingly. When we give in that way, Moses tells us, we will be blessed. Moses is saying the prosperous have a responsibility to lend to the poor without limit, even if this might result in a loss of capital due to the imminence of the year of release.
There were other rules about lending in Israelite law. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy, we can read that no interest was to be charged to fellow Israelites. The rich were not to increase their wealth at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves. This seems like a radical law for us in our times. But these laws illustrate a fundamental principal of ancient Israelite law: the needs of people override the rights of property. These laws stem from the belief that all wealth is the gift of God.
If one really believes all wealth is a gift of God, then people have no absolute claim over it. Are we in this world prepared to live in such a way. Yet, we Christians believe the gift is God's, and God has absolute claim over it. We are called to enjoy all the gifts God gives to us, the gift of land, the gift of property, the gift of material wealth, as stewards. We are to care for the gifts as steward’s care for what ultimately belongs to the Master. I wonder how the politicians of the world could enact this as it would change our approach to sharing and care and compassion towards each other.
What I am suggesting is that one of the keys to becoming a holy temple acceptable to God is to live into the belief that what we have tended to call ours is really God's. We've all heard the expression that we receive by giving. We hear that the Lord our God will bless us as we give liberally to those of God's children who are poor and in need. In other words, God's blessing will flow to those who give generously to those in need.
God has given us the gift of life. What can we give to God in return for life? What can we give God for all the many, wonderful gifts God has given and is giving us? We can reach out to those in need through our offerings. As we do that, we can help to bring about the state that those who have much do not have too much, and those who have little do not have too little. By sharing from our abundance, we can indeed bring life to those with little. By sharing what we have we are being good stewards. And by being good stewards, perhaps we become holy temples of God.