“Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasure lies in ruins” -Isa 64:11
(Image Credit: Unknown: MSNBC)
The world watched on in abject horror as fire ravaged a relic. I saw something different. The Monday of Holy week, one of the most revered and prominent faces of ‘The Establishment’ goes up in flames, largely reduced to ash and rubble, yet the foundation held. When we treasure the constructs of faith, the temple and tradition, more than the sound structure of it’s foundation, destruction can leave you in ruins.
“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” – Isa 45:7
I saw God speak to the world. A declaration at the start of the most Holy of weeks. A week that has millions flocking to their temples and traditions, while missing the foundation completely. I grew up this way. Steeped in tradition, taught to revere the relics as though the Spirit of God, Himself, inhabited them. While regarding the humanity around me as suspect, potential threats to the faith if they were to challenge or dissent from the collective. The problem with this, I couldn’t connect to a relic. The cross, with it’s disfigured, gaunt, ghost of a man creeped me out as a child, more than it comforted me. The traditions, the repetition, the image we were to portray of the faith filled following… felt like a burden.
“The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.” -Isa 46:1
Temples and traditions are not bad. Touchstones of remembrance. When we turn them into more, when they become the idols of our faith, that we worship or mourn with more veracity than humanity…. We need a wake up call. God does not inhabit the creations of the created, He inhabits US, HIS creation.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -Isa 43:18-19
It is sad. Destruction of any sort often brings about sadness, a loss of what was; History, beauty, etc.. However, the rebel that is within me, is ready for the new thing. Burn it down (metaphorically…. I’m not advocating arson 😉 the establishments that have an iron clad grasp on tradition over transparency, relics over realness. Reduce to rubble a hierarchy of humanity based on some physical, material, spiritual, political, or intellectual pecking order. He demonstrates His power. This is not the first temple He has destroyed with an intention to raise up, rebuild, redeem. He requires no defense. I’m over the arguments, the sliding scale of sin we use to
measure judge one another’s commitment to the faith. So obsessed by outward appearances, we constantly miss the heart. It is not our’s to judge. Love. That’s it. That’s the call, the command. As one of my fave authors, Bob Goff, aptly titled his book, “Everybody, Always”…. That’s who we’re to love, all the time.
It’s simple, and yet impossible at the same time. Love disarms us. The defenses fall, leaving us vulnerable to attack. Alfred Tennyson’s assertion, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all”, remains under scrutiny by many, myself included. The destruction of a building didn’t have near the impact on me, as discovering a very close friends sweet little boy’s body was physically under attack. An aggressive tumor, ATRT cancer, laid him out just over a week ago requiring immediate brain surgery to remove the tumor. The outlook is 6months inpatient equally aggressive cocktail of chemo and radiation to mount the offensive and kick cancer’s ass. Loving someone means allowing your heart to be shredded with theirs over news you cannot begin to understand. It’s understanding that when you release the traditions, and temples, the idols of old, you have no comforts to physically grab hold of to lesson the sting of the unknown.
“Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’.” – Isa 46:8-10
The story continues, beauty comes from the ashes of our expectations as He accomplishes His purposes. This week, this Holy week, we remember just how much God was willing to sacrifice to restore relationship with us… His own son. He is not a relic, He is real. He connects in our moments of grief, He get’s it, He’s experienced it. Jesus made the way back home, and it makes it possible for us to have hope and joy along a journey full of unknowns. He is with us, with my friends son, rebuilding, doing new things, beyond our understanding.
“Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations. The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.'” They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isa 62:10-12
I love the imagery of this… A highway, removing barriers, raising banners and signs to show everyone the way home. We always hear about the narrow path, referenced in Matthew, that few will find it. I’m not saying its a contradiction, just different perspectives. It’s a lot to swallow, accepting the truth of Jesus being the only way….. Good living won’t cut-it, good intentions apparently is the highway to hell…. Maybe it’s building a highway right to the mouth of that narrow path, so that one by one, Jesus can look His loves in the eyes as He welcomes them home.