February 2, 2020
Categorised in: Sermons
Preached by Canon Andy Trenier using Haggai 2.1-9 at Mattins on Sunday 2nd February 2020, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas).
“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
And temples – real stone ones- feature heavily in today’s feast-
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
We stand at the crossroads of the church year. And we do so in the Temple.
Jesus gets dedicated here.
During his ministry he could be found day by day teaching here.
And in perhaps the most famous visit of Jesus to the Temple he clears it out!
Christians must deal with the fact that that the story of God in Christ
sits alongside the story of the temple.
I wonder what you think about that?
Because for me it begs – and indeed represents an antecedent question
about the place of any physical stuff in the religious life?
If, as that Archbishop put it:
The conscious, the mind, the imagination, the heart, the will….
These are the place of true worship.
What is the place of the body, and the hands, and of stone, and work, & stuff?
There is a saying in Hinduism
that religion is the frozen thought of man- out of which the build temples….
Is that what we believe?
There has been discernible shift in religious life for some centuries:
From public and material
to inward and spiritual …………to existential
to personal ………then ..to private.
Are physical contexts of our religious experience…
just the shell and not the real deal?
Are the stones and stuff just transitory metaphors, which we must outgrow?
Is that what we think?
That “tower and temple fall to dust”?
Or is there lasting value in the physical-
to which God committed so much?
In today’s lessons Jesus is confronted by the religious rulers
And address these questions head on.
He takes the language of the Temple and applies it to himself.
But that move does not negate or reject that which was given by God.
(“I have not come to do away with the law”, he said)
Jesus is only relativising the created order
by locating its source and end in himself.
(“I have not come to do away with the law but to fulfil it”).
It is radical indeed that he would say that His body is Word of God,
the Temple and the place wherein the Spirit dwells.
It is just as radical to believe that the CHURCH
Participates in that BODY
Such that we too are LIVING STONES
It is extraordinary to think that this is the place where the glory of God is-
(if not contained)- yet, still, revealed:
where his forgiveness and renewal are experienced,
and where fellowship with God is grounded and maintained.
But for all of that Jesus is NOT NEGATING the temple, or the Body,
Or the created order.
We do not believe that the body is just a shell for the soul
or that the world just is a temporary approximation of the spiritual realm.
We believe what Jesus here teaches- that there is,
for want of a better word, an interior- or rather underlying-
spiritual reality at work in the world- which is CHRIST.
Friends- today at the close of the Christmas Season
We remember that the story of God in Christ
sits alongside the story of the temple
and Christ gave himself in substance of our flesh.
In doing so he hallows the world as a ‘cosmic liturgy’,
as Maximus the Confessor once put it.
In the beginning he hovered over the face of the deep
and God may still be found- just beneath the surface.
We don’t just shut our eyes and think hard to find God-
Don’t worry about the world
Just exercise Cartesian concentrating
and- whoop!- there he is.
We get baptised. We eat bread and wine.
We participate in him with voice, hands and eyes and ears and all
Temples, towers, and dust itself, your body, your work, all MATTER.
because we live in a sacramental universe and God is with us.
The orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann,
author of ‘For the Life of the World’,
articulates well, the ultimate consequence of
understanding the physical universe in this way
“Man is a hungry being. And he is hungry for God.
Behind all the hunger of our life is God.
And All our desire is finally a desire for Him.”
“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,- in ST PAULS WORDs to present your minds, imaginations, hearts, wills, and your bodies
as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.”