Blog entry 112710
Song of Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
2 Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
4 To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
8 For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of cypress* wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16Make a roof* for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.’ 22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
24As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
Signs of the End of the Age
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ 4Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!”* and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines* and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
9 ‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away,* and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this good news* of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
The Desolating Sacrilege
15 ‘So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Going to Church
I often do not like going to church, even when I am the preacher.
The problem is that I have very demanding and exacting standards for entertainment, and most church services do not rise to my expectations for good entertainment. The problem is not that I think other entertainers will not reach my level of expertise; I am not a good musician, a good vocalist or a good speaker. I can not even tell a joke very well.
The problem is, if I figure correctly, is that whenever I have seen God as somewhere else (like ‘up there’) or have seen religion as ‘in there’ like in a church building, or have seen spirituality as something that any hierarchy delivers to me (like a guru, a Sunday School teacher, or a government official) I instantly find fault, criticize, and in general spend more time being resistive or an obstructionist rather than a spending my time as a willing, receptive, open and thankful recipient of the Truth.
Religion, as it has been working out in America, has grown and grown based upon essentially the same model of communication as television commercials, football games and lectures from traffic cops. One is not expected, or even allowed to participate in television commercials. We are the recipients of the correct version of reality.
In football, our role is to sit on the couch and receive entertainment. We may be allowed to yell, cheer, groan and even suffer. But throwing a block on a visiting neighbor who is over for the game is usually not acceptable. Our participation is receptive in nature only. We do not kick footballs on the field, run, or fall down. We watch, and that is it.
So, while I am ‘joyous in the house of the Lord’ as Psalm 122 commends, I can only be joyous if I include the open sky, the dark night of stars and the quiet of a pasture of wildflowers in my idea of ‘the house of the Lord’. A noisy Thanksgiving dinner with my family, an hospital emergency room whose quiet is disturbed by cries of pain or shock, and the all night clanking and whistling of a distant rail yard also fit my definition of ‘the house of Lord’ so it is not just pretty stuff that are included; the whole existence to which God brings us is infinite and infinitely inclusive.
Perhaps Jesus in Matthew 24, when he talks about the fall, destruction and desolation of the temple in Jerusalem, is also talking about the fall and collapse of temples and churches as well, but not about the fall of the house of the Lord. His house is all around us, all with us and all in us.
Maybe a church in which we participate completely, as does everyone else in the church, is preferable to entertainment and maybe preferable to just watching the real church from the sidelines.