The Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians 6:16-7:1
Last Wednesday night after Vespers, we had our first “family night,” a chance for our people to gather and have a meal together as well as a short time for teaching and a discussion. For the first few weeks we are going through topics in the area of comparative religion. We started by talking about Judaism, which is natural since Judaism is so closely related to Christianity since Christianity sprung out from the belief in the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, who is Jesus of Nazareth.
In our conversation on Wednesday night we talked about the destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. and the need among the Jews for a new temple to be built in Jerusalem. This Temple is the cornerstone of Jewish religious practice. Why? Because it is in the Temple that the Jews encounter God. Why? Because it is in the Temple that God dwells.
The Apostle St. Paul speaks to us in today’s epistle regarding the temple of God. His words are revolutionary and earth-shattering. They are even more powerful when you understand that these are the words of one of the brightest Jewish men of his time. In the epistle we’ve just heard, the Apostle Paul writes “Brethren, you are the temple of the living God.” He has completely turned the faith of the Jews on it’s head by this one statement.
He tells the people that they do not need to go anywhere to encounter God. Specifically, they do not need to go to the Temple of the Jews because God is not there anymore. God is with His people, with those who accept Him and His Son and His people are the Church. This wasn’t simply St. Paul’s opinion. It was his enlightened reading of the Old Testament that led him to understand that the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, would have reality-altering effects on our world and our relationship with God. God had become one of us in order to destroy temple worship as the Jews had known it. The temple had in fact become a kind of idol that was loved and adored while the God who dwelt among the people was ridiculed, mocked and finally murdered. Which is more worthy of respect, love and adoration? The Temple built by the hands of men or the Temple built without hands, who existed before all creation?
Now we are given this amazing promise that God will in fact live in us and move among us, that He will be our God and we shall be His people, that He will be our father and we will be His sons and daughters. The way that God dwells in us is two-fold: His Holy Spirit dwells in us from the time of our baptism and Chrismation. And He dwells in us through the partaking of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist as we see in John 6:56 “He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.”
This amazing promise is given to us with two assumptions: The second assumption is that we will “touch nothing unclean.” St. John Chrysostom tells us that “Unclean things refer to adultery and fornication in the flesh and to evil thoughts in the soul.”
The first assumption is that we will separate ourselves from those who are ungodly and live immoral lives. Christians have done this to differing degrees over the last 2000 years. Some have created monasteries away from the cities. Others have created small communities that center around the church building. Others have chosen to keep a healthy distance from the ungodly. Perhaps avoiding dinners and drinks and social time with those who are not faithful Christians.
Some will no doubt object saying that the Lord Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners. That is true but this was not a risk for the Master, it is however a great risk for each of us. If it were not so, then the great monastics like St. Anthony would have skipped the desert and gone straight for the taverns to save the people. No matter what, we must separate ourselves from those who live ungodly and immoral lives. This is true for adults in the workplace, for students in the college setting and also for our youth. If you want your children to grow up in a way that is moral and virtuous you have to model that behavior and just as important, you have to know where your children are at all times and who they are keeping company with. If you have to guess or simply resort to wishful thinking, you are in for some real surprises. Most importantly we have to make the Church the center of activity in our lives.
Be separate, be set apart for God, be holy. God doesn’t wait for us to travel to Him, to make a pilgrimage to a special place on the other side of the world. He is ready to dwell in you this very day. He is here in our midst, moving among us and within us now. Let us make sure that we are welcoming the Lord to His holy temple. Let us cleanse the temple and prepare it for the Lord of glory, who loves us enough to share His presence and His very nature with us! Glory be to God Forever AMEN.