The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another durable leather ; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
I have thought of the difference between the temple in Jerusalem and the temple of our lives in Christ in terms of what God’s people used to have to do and what we have to do now. There was a whole sacrificial system, priests to be taken care of, an ark to be polished, zones marked out for where you can and can’t go – depending on whether you want to live. Maybe don’t volunteer to polish the ark. Now here we are, just freely offering our devotion in one voice, with God among us because the sacrifices have been fulfilled in Christ.
But, there is more to that early Christian innovation than worship, in spirit and truth, meaning unfettered, always, access to God. There is the gift, sealed in each of us and alive in our gathering, of the Spirit in us for one another. The temple is not just a matter of professional construction and craft, but built out of our own willingness to bring the offering of God’s Spirit through us to the church.
I was struck when I read this passage by the tabernacle built from what Israel had and had the heart to offer: whatever they possessed that could be of use, brought and reshaped into a dwelling for God. Each was called to bring their gift, and God would live in that.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that maybe there is a time for professionally crafted Temple, shaped out of our gifts towards the beauty, operating costs and staffing of it. But the New Testament vision is that I am the offering in worship, and what I have to offer is the way my life can be to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, and for the other. The assembly is not about getting ritual right, but about letting ritual model and strengthen our participation in the unfettered, always life of God.
Sometimes all I’ve got is a widow’s mite worth of self to give, but that’s what God is using to build us into the temple where he’s going to dwell with us; live with us, do life with us, teach us to live together. Together, the Spirit fills and strengthens us – through one another, in the expression of our gifts, towards God’s mission in the world.
I’d like to sing about that. I’ll see what I can come up with.