Remember this from yesterday? “The story is set in Jerusalem at a time when Jews were returning from their Babylonian captivity. Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and its magnificent Solomonic temple. Meanwhile the Persian king, Cyrus, had conquered Babylon and gave the Jews permission to return to their homeland. He also generously made provision for them to rebuild the destroyed temple. Hope was at high tide. The devastation and heartache of those long years of living in a pagan culture among foreign gods was over – they would be able to worship God again on their native soil, reenter the splendid sacred precincts, and begin again to serve God in the place redolent with storied memories… When the first people arrived they took one look at the restored temple and wept at what they saw. The Solomonic temple that for five hundred years had provided a glorious centering for their life as a people of God had been replaced by what looked to them like a tarpaper shack. The squalid replacement broke their hearts, and they wept. As they wept, a dazzling, light- resplendent presence descended, the Shekinah – God’s personal presence – and filled that humble, modest, makeshift, sorry excuse for a temple with glory. They lifted their arms in praise. They were truly home. God was truly present. The shekinah faded out. The glory stayed. People like you and me need that Shekinah story. And our congregations need it. Most of what we do in getting our congregations going doesn’t look anything like what people expect it to.” (p. 100-101 The Pastor)
I have notions about things that have proven to be completely unwarranted. I imagine churches as beautiful structures that stand as a testimony to families long ago, giving and building and sacrificing so that this building could stand the test of time while providing a refuge for saint and sinner alike. Wrong. They are beautiful, but that guarantees nothing. Many stand but are mostly deserted, not much of a testament to anything without the people bringing them to vitality through service and worship.
I used to think that people of faith became people of integrity. And that happens. But people of faith also do awful things too. A youth minister is arrested and convicted of sexually abusing minors from his youth group. A Senior Pastor in our community is accused, charged, tried and convicted of sexually assaulting minors. During the investigation it is discovered that he has been a serial sexual predator, having sex with many of the women in his church, thereby continuing to exploit while also committing adultery. These are terrible breaches of trust. Living life within a faith community looks NOTHING like I would have imagined as a naive young woman. What false beliefs have you held about a faithful life, and how has that impacted you and others?