"Treasure in the Temple"
Scriptures: Exodus 25:1-9; John 14:15-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Pastor Tom Millner
SpiritSong Worship Center
May 16, 2010
In the eighth grade I met Turner who became my best friend through high school. He was the son of my uncle's brother who had been killed in a tragic train accident just two years before. Turner and I quickly bonded around practical jokes, the Three Stooges and MAD Magazine – anything to distract us from the mundane life of rural North Carolina where my closest neighbor was a mile away. We spent weekends together (when I didn't have a lot of chores – he hated work) and often spent overnights at each other's homes when we could. He amused me and I was a constant nag to him to study. We double dated together sometimes when I got a date for him, but somehow never connected that he wasn't terribly interested in dating. We planned to go to college together and be roommates. He went to summer school at the college where we were "conditionally" accepted if we academically proved ourselves with a remedial English class. We both had lousy SAT scores –no one had ever taught us how to take standardized tests! I attended a local branch of a university and took a regular (not remedial) English course, got a B and ensured my entry into the college of my choosing. Turner, on the other hand, partied all summer, flunked English and Math and was summarily disinvited to return in the fall. Later that year, during the height of the Vietnam War, he was drafted. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and returned home during my senior year in college. I talked him into going back to school and interceded with the Dean of Students on his behalf (I was VP of Student Government Association) and got the way cleared for his entry the next fall. I didn't see him much after that. I taught High School in NC for a year before moving to FL with my new wife to teach school in Palm Beach County. The last I saw Turner was at a Howard Johnson's Restaurant on Route 29 South in Danville, Virginia. I was delivering him a life insurance policy that I had sold him (I did several jobs to support my teaching habit). I was full of excitement about my first child that was about to be born and the new house my wife and I had just moved into. I didn't give myself time to notice Turner's hollow laughs and thinly veiled jokes. I joked as I went through the policy provisions pointing out that suicide was exclusion in the death benefit. We said goodbye, gave each a hug, and I traveled back to my home in Florida. Six months later, my sister called in tears telling me that Turner had hanged himself in his mother's home. "Your name and phone number were on the pad of paper next to his dangling feet:" she said. I was devastated, angry, guilty, and full of remorse that I had not been there for him. It has taken me years to process the loss of my best friend. His pain must have been enormous! Another friend posted on Facebook this week that "suicide is the highest form of narcissism." I'm not sure that statement was helpful, but it made me think. Whether I think of me more highly or more lowly, it is still of ME I think.
God knows so very well what we think about. There's no place we can go to be removed from His observing eye or ear. Just because we turn our backs on Him doesn't mean He still can't see our face. Just because we tell ourselves He can't possibly love someone like me doesn't mean He's not waiting with open arms to embrace us once again. He knows our thoughts are focused on ourselves and that even as we think about Him, we think of Him as it relates to we who think of Him! God is less concerned that we think of ourselves more often than Him or others than He is with WHAT we're thinking about ourselves.
Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth was attempting to restore unity there. They were placing self interest over the interest of the whole, squabbling about who is right and wrong…much like we see being played out today in modern churches over GLBT issues. Paul wrote: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" I can think about my every day challenges that translate to my struggles (woe is me), or I can think about this body as His temple, the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit and suddenly, what I think has taken on a totally different context in which I'm thinking about me! Jesus is quoted in John's Gospel, chapter 8:31-32 "…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." When I focus on the teaching from His Word which reveals the truth of His love, I am set free from the chains of me that have me bound!
There are three significant points from our scripture readings today that relate to our topic; "Treasures in the Temple."
- The temple is built with the best God has given us! In Exodus, God instructed Moses on what the people of Israel were to bring for the construction of the Temple. "The LORD said to Moses, 'tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them." God didn't ask them to bring their junk and give it for the construction of the temple; He asked them to bring their best! He gave them all the best they had so he knew what they were to bring. God has given us each treasures – a SHAPE for His service to honor Him. Don't judge or diminish what you or another has been given. God asks those whose heart prompts them to give of their best for the Temple. It's significant because all these Temples here make up a single body – the Body of Christ!
- The Temple is Sacred! In ancient days the Lord dwelled in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil. Only the High Priest whose ritual sacrifice of the pure and holy could enter that place where His Spirit dwelt. Impurity could not be in the presence of purity! That's why a rope was tied around the ankle of the High Priest before he entered the Holy of Holies so that if the sacrifice of offering were not acceptable and he were struck dead by the presence of God, his body could be pulled out beneath the curtain. The temple was where His Shekinah glory dwelled and it was the place where the people went to honor, worship, and praise Him. God no longer dwells in that Temple. He has made a place for Himself elsewhere. In our scripture reading from John: "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." He's not in some obscure place – He's here in us, bringing us to Himself, face to face. The great high priest has made the sacrifice –himself!
- He calls us to honor His Temple. Paul tells the Corinthians that they should know that their bodies are His Temple! Christ paid the price that we might live – He in us and we in Him. We honor His Temple by stepping aside with our own ways of thinking and allow our thinking to be within Him. Romans 12:1-3 reads: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." The sober judgment with which we are to think of ourselves is brought about in the light of the temple in which He lives.
God has given us His very best. He wants us to give no less!
With regards to this temple – He's the owner, we share the space!
Give His place the best we can offer – the surrender of self!