29 March–4 April 2015.
Psalm 84 is a famous song that was sung by Jewish pilgrims making their yearly journey to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. On the one hand it is a beautiful hymn that describes how wonderful the temple is, and the joy of the pilgrims as they finally approach the temple and get to spend a brief time there. On the other hand, the song seems so disconnected from us today. After all, this first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed thousands of years ago. Even the second, rebuilt temple was destroyed 2,000 years ago – and none of us have ever been Jewish pilgrims going to worship at Jerusalem’s temple!
For the Jews the temple was an important place, because they saw it as the one place in the world where God was actually together with human beings, the place where God’s presence touched the earth. God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies, in the center of the temple. And while normal people were never allowed to enter that place, it was wonderful for them just to be nearby, to be close to God’s presence.
Yet for us Christians, during this Easter time we remember that at the crucifixion of Jesus, the temple veil was torn in two. We remember how the curtain that trapped God’s presence in the temple was torn apart, allowing the presence of God to flood out into the whole world. And we remember that Jesus spoke now of himself and his body as the temple, as the place of the true presence of God in the world.
So for us Christians, the good news is that people don’t need to make long pilgrimages to one place in the world to find God. In Jesus Christ, God is Immanuel: “God with us”. And this is good news for all people. After all, in Jerusalem only the high priest could be in God’s presence, and only once per year. But through Jesus we know now that all people can be with God – in Jesus God is with us and beside us every single day. What a great thing to praise God for this week, and a great thing to thank Jesus for this Easter!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis