If “Better is one Day”… how sweet it is that “One Day” is “Every Day…”
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. “
The rhythmic scrape of your leather sandal griping the rocky soil beneath them continues as you head up another hill. Also keeping your march in time is the heavy breathing of the donkey next to you, your pack carrying companion on your pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On this last day of the journey, you are towards the front of the caravan, a caravan you and your family take every year to Jerusalem. Every year- to the Temple.
As you crest the hill, the evening setting sun to the west casts warmer, more golden rays over the site you see ahead: the Holy City, crowded with other sojourners like yourself, whose every step stirs up more and more of the nostalgia of the journey. A smile begins to break forth across your face, as you begin to hum the words to Psalm 84. “How lovely is your dwelling place… O Adonai.” You close your eyes and close your hand into a fist of piety, drawing it towards your chest “My soul longs, even faints, for the courts of the LORD… my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God…. Blessed are those who dwell in your house.”
Every year of your life, you and your family (young and old) make the journey from Sephoris near Galilee to the Temple for the Passover and Pentecost season. During the journey, you imagine the great splendor of Herod’s Temple- the golden vine that hung down from the sanctuary entrance, the BBQ smell of the daily bulls offered upon the massive altar-even the sheer expanse of the Temple mount generated a sense tingly feeling of awe and adoration for the Temple mount.
Yet what was sweetest about the time at the Temple was not simply contemplation of Herod’s creation, but the sense of feeling, and knowing, that you were in God’s dwelling place. All your childhood, proximity to this place of worship was an honor that words just can’t full describe.
Yet… that was then. Still, you go to the Jewish Feasts, and the nostalgia and the history behind these important identity markers continues to inspire pride in your people and in your heritage. And certainly, the Temple still carries a great deal of nostalgia. Yet, you know today that to taste the dear and sweet presence of God, you don’t need to take this journey. No, ever since you met that prophet, that Rabbi, that man, Jesus, your understanding, and your experience, of the presence of God changed forever.
Nearly 25 years ago, you remember hearing this man teach in Jerusalem during the Passover. You remember the tension in the air when he spoke. You could see the scowling hatred radiating from the eyes of the Scribes and some of the key players in the Sanhedrin upon Jesus when he taught in the city, and especially when he overturned the tables in the Temple. Jesus caught our attention. You’ll never forget seeing this.
But, it wasn’t until years later, probably a decade or so after, that you truly realized who this man was. Self described, he was the Son of Man, and as His disciples have taught us, this meant also that he was the Messiah, the savior and ruling figure promised of old, who had come to bring his Kingdom. A kingdom not quite the way you were taught to expect it as a child. But still, a Kingdom and a rule that was real. Word began to spread about the healings, the exorcisms, the miracles that these Jesus followers performed as they spread through Judea. These acts of God they said were signs of God’s work through The Spirit. The words and the authority with which these men spoke, passing along the teachings of Jesus and the Twelve, was penetrating. In fact, it was after hearing about these miracles and sitting under their teaching that you finally felt as if you saw who Jesus was, and knew that at that point, your allegiance could be to no other.
Your calling in life was not to join the traveling groups that continued to cover the world with this news, but you and some other Jesus-followers returned home and continued to discuss and to memorize the content of his teaching. With time, teachings of another man, Paul, and perhaps another one called Apollos (but of this your aren’t totally sure) came and taught you more about this Spirit of God. The Spirit meant that, since His outpouring at Pentecost, God no longer dwells behind columns or courtyards- He dwells in your heart. Indeed, as Paul, this former esteemed Pharisaical Scribe turned evangelist, has made clear “you are God’s temple, and God’s Spirit dwells within! Indeed, God’s promises that he will be our God, and we will be His people, and the great promise that he will bring to us, a broken and rebellious people, a new covenant, is here in us, where he now makes his dwelling and walks among us, as he once walked with our Father Adam before he knew sin.
And those sacrifices? Although you’re still journeying with your family so as not to abandon this opportunity to remember and to worship God for his faithfulness to my fathers, you know that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, and that the aroma that rises and pleases God’s nostrils is not the offerings of singing and charcoaled flesh, but YOU, as you spread the Good news of the Kingdom of God to all my family and village. Your sacrifice is your life, which you continually offer to Him, day-in, day-out.
So, with the few last hours before you arrive within the walls of Jerusalem, you continue to hum the words of Ps 84 :
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the pathways to Zion… how lovely is your dwelling place, O Adonai…O Adonai, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
The smile on your face grows bigger, as you internalize these prayers- this strength, this blessing, the experience of your childhood temple longing… isn’t one that can only be satisfied once a year. It is satisfied every day, as you drink and taste the presence of God within you. You shudder for a quick second- the thought that a Temple mightier than the one you are approaching is the very skin that you are in. What fullness of times you are in, to taste the hymns of your fathers, that you now understood and experience in ways they never could have imagined…