We Are Temples of the Living God
“You are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live in you and move among you, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
What an amazing statement! You, John, and you Sophia, and each one of us in this church is a temple of the living God. And God chooses to live in us. Wow! Think about what this means!
How many of you have ever traveled to Rome and seen St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican? Or to Paris and seen Notre Dame? Or to Constatinople and seen Aghia Sophia or St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Or the Resurrection Cathedral in Tirana or St Stephen’s in Vienna or St. Mark’s in Venice or to Saint Nektarios in Aegina or to any of the great cities of Europe, where you can see incredible cathedrals and churches– architecturally stunning, century-old gothic, byzantine, roman, baroque cathedrals and churches. And to think how many of these were built hundreds of years ago.
But why? Why did generations of people throughout the centuries exert such effort and put in so much money to build these gorgeous churches? The striking beauty and magnificent architecture made these buildings the most spectacular structure in the city or town for centuries! But why?
And why do we do something similar today in our own church. How intimate and beautiful this Saints Constantine and Helen sanctuary is! Whenever anyone enters our church, they pause and look around to take in the beauty. Their souls are touched by what they see. Why do we decorate our church with so many icons and beautify it with meaningful stain glass windows? Why do we spend such money and put in such effort to beautify our churches?
Because we, like our forebearers before us, realize that this building represents sacred space as the house of God, a temple offered up as a witness to the world for the glory of God. Through our churches and such sacred space, we gratefully offer what is most beautiful back to our Creator, our Heavenly Father, our God!
This is also why when we enter a Church, we act reverently because we realize we are on holy ground. We’re more careful how we speak; we’re more conscious of how we act; we try to be respectful to others; we realize that even though God is present everywhere, there is something very special about His sacred house. Thus, we gather together each week as the people of God in His house, waiting to encounter the living God in a mystical manner.
Well, I want us to reflect on this as we turn our attention to the words of Saint Paul in today’s Epistle reading. “You are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live in you and move among you, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
Reflect for a moment on the beauty of our church buildings and then think about why Saint Paul compared each one of us to the most beautiful temples dedicated to God. Yes, God dwells in our churches but God dwells even more fully in the temple of our body, in each one of us! We are His Temple, the House of the Living God. Our bodies and our lives are sacred space, dedicated to the Holy One. Just as the Almighty is present in this church and we come here to encounter the living God every Sunday when we worship together, the Lord is also present in you and in me. He wants to live in us and move among us. When people come in our midst, when they meet us and listen to us and encounter us, they should see God.
But, is that what they do see? Is that what people encounter when they meet us? Do our words and actions, does our presence remind people of the Lord and bring them closer to Him?
If we seriously reflect on this and understand it in the depths of our being, it is a sober realization. If God lives in me, I want to be the most beautiful edifice, sparkling clean and pure, offered up to the Almighty.
Imagine coming into a church that is dirty and unkept. Imagine entering a church that has scandalous images painted on the walls? Imagine entering a church where everything is damaged and broken?
Actually, I can understand this image clearly, because I remember living in the only country in the world that rejected all religion and forbade any practice of faith. Albania was a country that tried to eliminate God. Thus, they destroyed most churches, and those that remained standing, they desecrated. They turned the churches in gymnasiums, theatres, barns, restaurants. I remember walking into century old churches, temples where people worshipped for hundreds of years, churches where every inch of the wall and ceiling were covered with icons, and yet, the icons had been desecrated. Graffiti was scribbled all over the icons. Blasphemous words were written on the walls. Often, the eyes of the saints and of Christ and the Virgin Mary was etched out. It was obvious that the atheistic government wanted to ridicule and desecrate anything religious to promote their militant atheism.
I would enter some of these churches and be heartbroken. To think that generations of faithful people prayed in these sanctuaries
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