May 10, 2020, Living In A New Reality: A Living Temple; Mother's Day, by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
I Peter 2:2-10 Therefore, get rid of all ill will and all deceit, pretense, envy, and slander. 2 Instead, like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of the word. Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Now you are coming to God as to a living stone. Even though this stone was rejected by humans, from God’s perspective it is chosen, valuable. 5 You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Thus it is written in scripture, Look! I am laying a cornerstone in Zion, chosen, valuable. The person who believes in him will never be shamed.[a] 7 So God honors you who believe. For those who refuse to believe, though, the stone the builders tossed aside has become the capstone. 8 This is a stone that makes people stumble and a rock that makes them fall. Because they refuse to believe in the word, they stumble. Indeed, this is the end to which they were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. 10 Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Reflecting on this passage, we take a moment to vision ourselves, from all our separate places as together making up a spiritual temple, uniting to become a place where God may be found.
May 10, 2020 Living in a New Reality: A Living Temple; Mothers’ Day St. Luke
Where are you having church during this time of pandemic? Where are you encountering the Spirit? Does Zoom feel like church sometimes? Or are you finding yourselves in church in other parts of your life? I saw a Facebook post from Virginia Vivino that made clear she is finding the Spirit on trails in various parts of the region, where she and Fred can be isolated but in the beauty of God’s world. I know some of us are finding church with extra time with our families and even with a few close friends over the phone or from a safe distance.
Some of us are experiencing church through streaming of services like this one and through the Zoom calls where we pray for each other and catch up with each other and show each other love. (And I know some people are getting a little worn out on Zoom and doing the extra work so other people can have church.)
Maybe in our Zoom call later or in the chat on this stream (which I am watching with you) you can tell each other places where you are experiencing yourselves in what our passage from I Peter today calls a “spiritual temple.” Here’s what he says, “You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The writer recognized that the people in the churches to whom he was writing were going through times of real hardship, serious oppression from the Roman empire and difficulties even coming together as church. When he writes, “You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple.” notice that this is a plural ‘you.” He’s addressing congregations of people, folks who have started to identify themselves as a community of faith, even when it was difficult for them to get together.
That’s how it was in the first century. They didn’t have any big stone buildings like we have. They were in house churches. The way in which we are meeting now in something similar to house church in the first century. They weren’t real adept at live-streaming from a distance back then, but they definitely felt the Spirit streaming in their homes and their families & local community meetings.
Peter, or whoever wrote this text, was clearly writing to some people who were discouraged and tired, and needed encouragement. He gives that encouragement to the scattered early Jewish Christians, with strong words, saying “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.” Those are powerful words.
Then he goes on: “Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy” We are careful to hear these words not as a people who dominate the world - not as though we as the US are the holy nation or the chosen people. We hear these words as a people scattered and hurting. We hear these words as a people living in a world where a man out jogging can be attacked, shot and killed, and the people who did it are not arrested for weeks, because they are connected with other white supremacists in the government. We hear these words as a people living in a world of a destructive virus and a broken health care system and spiraling unemployment. We hear these words as a church who used to pray for the homebound as though they were separate from us, and now we are all homebound and know ourselves as a church united. We hear these words as a people who need the encouragement and reassurance to come together as a living temple.
We may take this encouragement for ourselves during a time when we can’t be together. All of a sudden we have become a church without walls, a people gathered from a distance. During this time we are supporting each other in new ways, praying for each other with new energy, becoming, in some ways, God’s people in ways that we hadn’t been before. We pray that we become the living temple that God wants us to become, that we share with each other and with the world the love of the Living God in Christ.
One of the places many of us were taught about that love was from our parents - maybe particularly from our mothers. I will never forget my mother saying to me several times before she died (and I felt when she said it that she had thought about it a lot). “I want you to know David, that I have loved you every day of your life.” Those words of encouragement and hope helped (and still help) me realize where the foundation of trust and compassion came from in my life.That love gave me the trust and confidence that I could be part of a Living Temple - with my brothers, with my family, and with all of you.
Of course I had to come up with a smart answer to my Mom, and when she said, “I’ve loved you every day of your life” I said “What a coincidence, because I’ve loved you every day of my life too!” And that felt deeply true. I told this story to my brothers yesterday, reminding them of our mother’s love and encouragement. As my brother struggles with his band having lost all of their jobs for 3 months, and as he looks for other work, I told him I still wanted him to stay safe - because I’ve loved him every day of his life (even if I didn’t always show it), and I want him to stay well, even if he lives in Georgia.
Today we give thanks for those who have loved us every day of our lives - especially our mothers and all those who mothered us, as individuals, but also as God’s community. Think of those who you have loved every day of your life. They are part of your spiritual temple during this time. We give thanks for those who helped to connect us with other people to be part of God’s living temple, because once we were no people, but now we are God’s people.
During this time of fractured community and fear, my friends, we are all relying on those reserves that we have developed over our lives, reserves of faith and connections in this place that maintain us even as we have to be apart. Maybe you notice how hard it is to keep track of time, even what day it is during this fractured time. One of the ways we keep track of time by how long it will take for us to get back to ‘normal.’ That is keeping track of time by love, motivated by hope for the time when we can see each other again, hug each other again and worship together again, and get about normally. We long to get back to ‘normal’ because we are a people of love.
We will not go back to normal if we are a people of a living temple, keeping track of time by love. We will not go back to normal and forget again about the workers who make our lives possible. Keeping account of time by love means resisting the desire to go back to the way of living marked by economic and social inequality that has made the burden of this virus fall hardest on the most disadvantaged, by a health-care system that leaves so many unprotected, by the ridiculously low pay that people doing the most necessary jobs receive. None of this can be accounted for by love. It’s not enough to want our old life back. Especially in the season of Easter, we are called to make room for more life—not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
Please keep track of time by love, knowing that everyone around us needs encouragement and support during this time. Work for decent health care for all. Work for decent pay for all people. Folks are scattered and hurting, and we all need the encouragement and reassurance that comes from connecting with and being part of the living temple, the living Spirit. We are learning new things about this living church during this time and we do not intend to forget the sustenance we receive from being part of this temple without walls.
Invite other people into your living temple. Invite them on a socially distanced walk. Invite them to join us on these calls. Invite them into this community of the spirit. Let them know that you love them. Let them know that you care about them. Share with them the love from the womb of life, the living God, in the living temple.
Responsive Hymn. 2046 Womb of Life