For those reading who may not have knowledge of the Old Testament, a veil or a curtain of separation was built into the Jewish Temple as a means of preventing access to the Holy of Holies, other than by the one High Priest. The Holy of Holies held the Ark, a vessel containing Moses’ Tablets, and representing the very presence of God.
From a New Testament perspective, it would come serve to contrast religion with the relationship that Jesus modeled. In fact, the day of His crucifixion, Matthew records, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.” Jesus became the Ark, bringing the presence of God to every man, thus the concept of the Priesthood of Believers. Now the Spirit, the Revelation of the Living God would be available to all men and women, all races, all people!
The moment of salvation, at least in my life, produced a deep knowing, a sense that something in the heavens had opened up, liberating my then dark soul. The hard rock of my heart was split and new life entered. Yet over the years, there are days even month when it seems that at least a thin fabric of that veil can still be felt. How does that occur?
Interesting are the thoughts still swirling in my head from a late night Town Hall meeting. The packed out audience was set off by the politics behind a growing infrastructure need in our small town. The balance between growth needed for tax purposes, the cost of infrastructure to assure that growth; on the other hand, the desire to remain a quaint village, along with the triple threat of inconvenience and short term loss to the businesses that brought that growth. These necessary tensions can easily inflame and diminish community. Last night, politics was heightened in an otherwise predominately Christian community, where folk usually get along.
Why do I bring this up? Forty years ago I would have never dreamed of being involved in such shenanigans as can occur in small town politics. I was content to share my life with a few students in a classroom, take up tickets at a local football game and otherwise wrap my life around a small and close knit congregation. Those were good times. In fact, I am meeting over coffee with one of my first students in the morning, now in his fifties!
Yet the longer I stayed in that tight huddle, while pouring over the scriptures, the more I realized that unlike the comfortable institution of church, which my wife and I had fully bought into, the Apostles were changing their cities! That became my passion. Later, a degree in Community Development would open doors to serve in the central office of a school system; then still yet, an offer to participate in a church that had a grand vision for its city. Eventually, the privilege of mayor would come my way! We’ll talk more about that later.
My point may be that life can easily distract us from an otherwise meaningful relationship with the Almighty, even when we truly attempt to offer our lives as a sacrifice to God and to others! By no means am I saying that all the things I am involved with are not of significance to the Lord. In fact, to me this is what I am called to do. Yet, I am human, and have my limitations (wait until my wife reads this)!
Would isolation be a better spiritual choice, embedding myself within a few folk who look like me, think like me; willing only to be involved in the lives of those living in other countries? World missions, even trips to foreign lands of which I remain involved, have their place, but that is not community. An at large engagement locally has been the only place I have found true communion and rest within my calling!
That does not mean that one should not be guarded, more aware than ever, that these well intended integrations of sacred and secular can become distractions, if a prayer life and daily visit with the Holy of Holies is not maintained. This is not legalism and in fact is little different than when my grandchildren come over. We have a deep relationship of love and when John Luther or Caroline are in the room, they have my focus. Yet, as time passes, now over two years since I literally lit up my Facebook account with pictures, I find it much easier to take a phone call, return a text, in their presence. Yes, this doting grandfather, Poppi, at times risks the deep and fragile relationship of those who most hold my heart in theirs! God help us among those who hold a lesser place in our hearts.
I think I have made my point. Even the deepest sense of calling, my passion for community, the desire to make a difference in a city, can become a subtle enemy, when allowed to distract me from intimacy with the Christ, who was God!
I can easily find myself spouting off options, arm chair quarterbacking, reconstructing that partition between God and man. The love of Christ was poured out to rent that Veil. How dare we allow neglect to continue, where bitter divides become canyons within our communities; ultimately the communion of Christ is diminished.
It is in these moments that we become deluded as believers, self-entrenched, choosing to justify our opinion over compromise for the sake of others. Once this seed of division takes root in our hearts, it can easily enter our theology, adding to the fabric of that reconstructed curtain. Perhaps this is where silos of faith, denominational divides first occurred, allowing communities to retreat on Sundays, rather than face the fierce conversations that would otherwise strengthen the brotherhood?
To be continued.