Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The church calendar has a pattern. In the first half we celebrate the events in the life of Jesus Christ: Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension. Also on Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church. Finally, on Holy Trinity Sunday, we recognize why the church was commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The second half of the ecclesiastical calendar is the time of the church, of the mission of the church until the second coming of the Lord in glory. However, our text for today tells us of something that happened during Holy Week. Immediately before His last entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when people threw palms and cloaks in front of Jesus seated on a donkey. Why this story the time of the church?
Because there is a warning to us. Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time and wept. He knew His destiny would be like the prophets of the Old Testament, to the last of them, John the Baptist. John called the people to repent of their sins before the coming of the Messiah, including King Herod. Therefore, John was executed in prison by Herod. Other prophets were killed or lived in fear of their lives like Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 7: 1-11). Jesus knew that the holy city not only rejected the prophets, it would also reject the Messiah, the Promised One of the prophets. Because they did not think they needed a Savior.
As in the time of Jeremiah, they trusted in their own good works and the presence of the Temple in Jerusalem. The first temple was built by King Solomon. Jeremiah spoke of this temple.
From Mount Sinai to the construction of the first temple, the people of Israel worshiped God in a tent known as the Tabernacle. It was a tend made of precious and fine materials, but it was a tent, a mobile unit for the desert journey. The people continued their worship in the Tabernacle in the Promised Land. King David took it to Jerusalem for the purpose of replacing it with a permanent house of prayer. But God did not allow David to build the temple, rather his son, Solomon. And Solomon built the temple of gold and silver, jewels and fine wood and it was the center of the people's worship.
But, God warned the people through Jeremiah, that a large building was not enough if worship did not bear fruit in daily lives.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Improve your ways and your works, and I will make you dwell in this place. Do not trust words of lies, saying: Temple of Jehovah, temple of Jehovah, temple of Jehovah is this. But if you will thoroughly improve your ways and your works; if with exactitude you do justice between man and his neighbor, and you do not oppress the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow, nor in this place will you shed innocent blood, nor walk in pursuit of other people's gods for your evil; then I will make you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your parents forever. ”
The people did not repent of their infidelity and immorality. Therefore, God allowed their conquest by the empire of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The people of Israel were in captivity and exile for 70 years. Then in His mercy, God moved Cyrus, emperor of Persia, to allow the return of the people and the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
In addition, 40 to 50 years before Jesus, King Herod the Great began to renovate and expand the Temple complex until it was bigger than ever. And again the people trusted in this Temple as a guarantee of God's presence among them. But, the presence of God does not depend on a large building. It is good when a great temple is a testimony of living faith and sincere worship, but if the worship is empty, very soon the temple will be empty, and perhaps God will allow its destruction.
For 10 years before this sanctuary, our congregation gathered in a roofed courtyard. Thank God for this temple, but this is not a guarantee of God's presence among us. We find the presence of God where the Word is preached in its purity, the sacraments are administered according to the Lord's mandate and the faithful trust these things. But, for those who trust in a building, in the earthly power and glory of the church, there is a warning in our text.
"For days will come upon you, that your enemies will encircle you with fences, and they will encircle you, and everywhere they will put you in a strait, and they will tear you down to earth, and your children within you; and they will not leave stone upon stone in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation. "
In the year 70 after Christ, this prophecy was fulfilled by the Romans. Jerusalem was rebuilt in time, but in two thousand years, the temple has never been rebuilt. The Wailing Wall is the only piece of the second temple left today. It is a part of a bridge that upheld the walls of the complex. And in another part of the Temple Mount, there is the mosque of the Dome of the Rock, a holy place of Muslims. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Temple would be rebuilt now.
Now there is no presence of God in the Temple of Jerusalem, which does not exist, but anywhere two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ. We thank God for this temple of ours, but we will give much more thanks for the Word of God, for the gospel of eternal life in Jesus.
We are the church and as the church, we are the Temple of God. As St. Peter says, each of you are living stones with Christ as the cornerston. We are also the body of Christ in this world.
St. Paul says in the epistle (1 Corinthians 12: 1-11), “Now there is a diversity of gifts; but it is the same Spirit. And there is diversity of ministries; but it is the same Lord. And there are diversity of operations; but it is the same God who does all things in all. But each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for their benefit. ” This is the same Spirit that is active in the preaching and administration of the sacraments.
In addition, Paul says in verses 12 and 13, “For just as the body is one, and has many members, but all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so is Christ. Because by one Spirit we are all baptized in one body, whether Jewish or Gentile, whether servants or free; and we have all drunk of the same Spirit. ”
The destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem was a sign of the fulfillment of the old covenant. As the Tabernacle was not the fixed temple of Jerusalem, so the covenant on which the temple was based was not the permanent covenant. The permanent covenant is the new covenant in the blood of Christ and its holy place is wherever the new people of God, the church, are gathered. We do not trust a building, but the Word and the sacraments. In this we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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