We Are the Temple of God – the Witness of His Greatness
“We Are the Temple of God – the Witness of His Greatness”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2016
Readings: Malachi 3:13-4:6, Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
I have a bad habit that seems to control my actions many times. When we get something for the house, it comes with a manual of instructions; but I put that aside and go right ahead and use the equipment. As a result, it wouldn’t work right because I didn’t follow the instructions. This is what most of Christianity today is guilty of. We pay no attention to how God wants us to live our lives. We’re blessed! God has equipped us with awesome ability so we can be like Him, and live truly as being created in His image and likeness. Sadly, we don’t use and follow what we read in Scriptures but just do what we want. We take God off His Throne and put ourselves there. This is also what most of today’s governments do.
As we come to the end of the calendar year, God gives us wisdom and instructions on how to live this life in victory. People should be amazed at how we handle problems and be inspired to live like us. Psalm 98 exhorts us to “sing to the Lord a new song for He has done wonderful things; to shout joyfully to the Lord; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises”. This joyful worship should come out of our hearts with excitement, not just when we’re together but constantly, because God has done great things for us. We put our trust in God even in the midst of problems.
Having heard from God all year, Scriptures today challenge us to rule on this earth. We may still be imprisoned in fear, doubts and anxiety, but we take that step of faith even if we’re uncertain about how to handle our many problems; because God does not fail. This is the beauty of the greatness of God. We’ve been delivered from the slavery of the world’s system. We walk as royalty. The Collect of the Day challenges us to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest all Holy Scriptures. God is telling us today, “I’ve given you all this, but what are you doing with it? I’ve done this out of love and compassion for you. I sent My Son to set you free and give you the ability to rise up and conquer and be victorious. All this I have given you, but what are you doing with these gifts?” Today’s reading (2 Thessalonians 3:10) tell us, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” This refers to the Kingdom of God and of reaping its benefits and blessings. If we don’t do our part, we won’t enjoy all the blessings that God has given us through His Son. We bemoan our situation when God has given us the ability to rise above our circumstances. He gave us, His people, all authority in heaven and earth and under the earth. Our emotions, feelings, outside forces – we can overcome them all! “Those who fear Him will be spared like a son.” There will be a difference in the lives of the righteous and the wicked. This protection of God, His favor upon our lives will be a witness to the world, and will encourage people to give their lives to God.
God talks of the time when everything will come to an end, and it seems that this is already happening. “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11). There is so much unrest in the world today. Christians are being persecuted and the media doesn’t report that millions have already been killed. ISIS has destroyed many things that are dear to Christianity – innocent lives, and churches and images that are thousands of years old. So when we read Luke 21, we may think that surely, this is the end of time; but it also says that it won’t be the end yet. “When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” Somebody said that the world would end last October and when it didn’t, the date was moved to November 17; then they said if it still won’t happen on November 17, it will be on November 30. We know better than to believe any of these because Scriptures tell us that nobody knows exactly when it will happen. Instead, we’re given signs that it’s near – wars, natural calamities and signs from heaven, and persecutions on Christians, even from their own families, so we can be prepared. “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My Name.” But God tells us not to be afraid because “not a hair of your head will perish”. If we’re prepared for all this, we won’t be harmed. God tells us that “by your endurance you will gain your lives”. We should prepare ourselves so we won’t be unaware and be destroyed. When we are persecuted for our faith, we shouldn’t fear. St. Paul was persecuted and imprisoned, but he continued to minister hope and life. When he was brought to Rome, he brought the Gospel with him. The historian Josephus said that Paul converted to Christianity all guards they assigned to him till the whole legion became Christians.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 tells us to “keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us”. This is a command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; it’s not a suggestion. We ought to be careful about who we associate with lest we be influenced to lead unruly lives ourselves. St. Paul continues by telling us, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either”. We come to church, “eat” or feed from the Word of God, but then we go back to the world and live according to its system. One powerful witness in the US is the Roman Catholic Church. They refuse to do abortions in hospitals and give birth (control) contraceptives. Through us, God wants to bring a message of hope to the world. The Church should stand firm and say, “We have a Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us life and authority to overcome adversities and bring His light to the world”. We stand firm on our faith, reminding ourselves that it isn’t us who is doing the work but Christ in us working through our hands, eyes, mouth and feet. St. Paul commands and exhorts the Thessalonians to work so they can eat the things of God, and not to grow weary of doing good.
In our lives, we have set things according to how we think they should be. In the past month, something intense has been put in my heart concerning the structure of the church. Today’s Gospel assures me that we’re going in the right direction. In the Gospel, some were talking about the beauty of the temple, adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts that they could be blinding in their splendor. But Jesus told them, “the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down”. Why would God allow this? The temple was so important to the Jews. They would travel from far just to get there. The temple was a symbol of God’s presence on earth, but when Christ died, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Years later, the temple was totally destroyed. What’s going on? Is it possible that the people’s faith was in the temple and not in God that He took it away from them? God doesn’t want an institution. We have become the temple of the Holy Spirit; God is no longer in a physical temple. He is in our hearts. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the witness of the greatness of God, the gold that glitters, and all because of what God has done for us. In the New Testament, the church was always in a home. It’s not an institution with rules and regulations. He destroyed the law of stone and put it in our hearts, and we now obey the law out of love. The Church in the New Testament is us, the temple of God. Do we comprehend that this is how precious we are to God? He is with us every second of our lives and we can pray to Him anytime of the day. He hears us and knows what we need even before we ask. He lives in our hearts and knows our thoughts and desires. And we’re not just the temple of God; we are also His sons. This is the Church; it’s not an institution with rules. We come to Him with respect and adoration. This is why we always have a song of praise: “I’ve been set free! I’m His son!” The ceremony doesn’t replace God’s residency in our hearts. The church as an institution is not evil because it helps in our journey to perfection, but it cannot substitute God’s presence in us. There’s no division in the Church. The mass never ends because God is with us, so we partake of Him every moment of our lives. He talks to us best when we’re quiet and can hear what He’s telling us. He wants us to realize how valuable we are to Him.
Next week we will celebrate Christ as King, but He can only be King if we’re walking with Him and obeying Him. “If you don’t work, you won’t eat.” Spiritually, this means that if you’re not using the grace, mercy, authority and gifts God has given you, you’re not working, and you won’t eat the full benefits and the blessings of God. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. You speak against God whenever you feel and say that you are poor, downtrodden, forgotten and forsaken. The problems we face are there for a purpose, and if we face them using the principles of God, we will overcome. Develop patience. Let patience possess your soul. Don’t be anxious. Calm down. God will deliver you. Let God be God. He has proven Himself many times; He will not fail. Next Sunday, we’ll declare Him King and we should be ready for Him to be King of our lives. In the old days, the king owned everything and provided for the needs of his subjects. This is our King Jesus; He provides all our needs. Man is weak without God, but with Him, all things are possible. We have to apply in our lives all the principles we’ve learned. God is merciful because after the feast of Christ the King, we go through the lessons all over again. Let’s build our respect for God and follow Him because our victory lies in our obedience to Him.