SOMEBODY GET THE ROPE
God has come along way. At one time the Hebrew’s believed that a High Priest was needed to communicate with God. It probably began with Moses going up onto Mt. Sinai to meet with God on behalf of the Isrealites. Later when they wandered in the desert for 40 years, a large box called the Ark of the Covenant was with them. It was a place for God’s presence to exist. When Solomon built the Temple, there was a room called the Holy of Holies where they believed God’s presence lived. This was such a holy place that no one except the High Priest could go there and then, only once a year. They were so concerned that the High Priest might not be holy enough, they would have another person stay with him round the clock after being purified so he wouldn’t be left alone with his less then holy thoughts. Then they would tie a rope around his waist, so that if he was overcome while in the Holy of Holies, they could get him out without having to go in after him.
A CURTAIN FOR RENT
In the crucifixion story of Mark’s gospel, after the darkness covered the earth from noon to three, the curtain that blocked the passage to the Holy of Holies was, as the King James puts it, “rent in twain.” I believe this was not just to keep people out, but a symbol that God was now on the loose.
GOD REALLY SHOWED UP
When I was a student at George Fox College in Newberg Oregon, I was on the music team for Wednesday Night Worship. It was a gathering of students who came together for worship and prayer. Some nights there seemed to be a real sense of God’s presence and sometimes not so much. I remember hearing some of the leaders say of those nights when God seemed to fill the space, "God really showed up tonight." The leaders would then try to figure out just how they orchestrated things so they could do it again. The thought was that God was up in Heaven and if the conditions were just right, God would come down and grace us with God’s presence.
IN THE CLOSET
This idea is as old as the Pharisees, who believed that if everyone could keep from breaking the Law of Moses for just one day, God would come down from Heaven and heal the land. Jesus seemed to have a different way of looking at it. He often went alone to a solitary place to connect with God. He also taught that all you needed to do was to go into your prayer closet to find God. The prayer closet Jesus spoke about was actually a prayer shawl that you would wrap over your face to block out distractions.
Part of Christian conservative systematic theology has stated that God is everywhere except where sin is. This put a premium on being sin-free before you tried to connect with God. I have come to know that God is everywhere at all times. God’s love and presence fills the universe, even in the dark places. Maybe even especially there. When Jesus was departing from his followers in the Ascension, He stated, “Listen, I will be with you always, even to the ends of the earth."
The early followers of Jesus also believed that God lived in them. The Apostle Paul, the first to write about Jesus, believed and taught that Jesus lives in us. When we are filled with God’s Spirit, we may be more mindful of God’s presence in our lives for sure, but even when it seems like we are alone, we are not. The Hebrew word, “Ruah” means at the same time God’s spirit and human breath. Take a deep breath and feel God’s spirit inside of you and give thanks for a God who lives not just in a fancy temple but in us.