Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. - Isaiah 40:1
Dcn Dale Matson 05-07-09
As I reflected on a portion of the Gospel lesson from Luke (Chapter 6) for the Daily office for Wednesday May 6th, it also occurred to me again that we are in the midst of a serious legal struggle in our Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin against The Episcopal Church (TEC). It is easy to be anxious and fearful about the possible outcome. It is also possible to adopt a self righteous anger too. However, our Gospel lesson is quite a contrast to what would be an expected human response. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” This is a portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which is a kind of parallel to Mathew’s Sermon on the Mount.
There is a property dispute of course but hopefully both sides would say that ultimately, God owns the property not a Parish, Diocese or a Denomination. It also occurred to me that while property provides a place to gather for worship and fellowship, it can also be an occasion to misunderstand and be misdirected as to what is meant when we talk about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has never been about bricks, stones, mortar, wood and steel.
I believe the Jews of the Old Testament confused God’s presence among them with the Temple in Jerusalem. Much of their pride and identity was centered on the temple rather than God Himself. Seeing the Dome of the Rock sitting on the very ruins of the Temple should be evidence enough that God has left an historical reminder that the Temple and the land of Israel are not as important as the God who gave both to Israel. While it is what they are fighting each other about, who owns the land and the buildings is really not the central issue for the Arabs and Israelis nor should it be the central issue for us either. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:20, 23).
With each crisis in our personal lives and in the life of our faith community, we are faced with understandable initial human responses of anxiety, fear, anger or self righteousness. I am reminded of the man who put his faith in his possessions. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20) My brothers and sisters, we are the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The property and the buildings belong to God and Him alone. Amen