Thursday, November 14, 2013

Excluding the Sick and Mamed

Red spots. My three year old son was covered in them when he woke up this past weekend. Ultimately we kept him home from church. Did we jepordize his salvation by excluding him from the redeemed community? Doubtful. Which made me rethink God's laws in the original Covenant about excluding the sick and mamed from the temple. Were these laws imperfect and temporary because they limited access to God? Did God only accept the prayers of the sick after Jesus? Or were these laws just good common sense (then and now) for policy at a public butchery/resturant?

As preachers, we need to admit that too often we are as ill equipped in the Hebrew Bible as our audience. The temple, its viceral bloodiness, its frequent corruption, and its endless rules, none of which are observed today, become the whipping boy of people selling the need for Jesus.

Sure, Jesus condemned the temple leadership of the time and prophesied its destruction. But was this because some of God's laws were flawed? I have serious reservations about the self contradictory nature of this thinking. Rather, the greed laden implementation of these God given laws subverted their intended inclusive purpose.

So why exclude the sick and leporous from worship at the temple in the first place? How about to stop the spread of disease. If it is not fair for me to quote Jesus, "let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them," when the church nursery attendent refuses my mucus dripping child, then it is also not fair to quote Jesus against the laws his Father set up. Remember, Jesus didn't tell the leper to walk into the Holy of Holies as a leper. Jesus healed the leper. And even then Jesus didn't tell the healed leper to barge into the Holy of Holies.

Why exclude the mamed from service as priests? How about the same reason the airforce doesn't hire blind pilots. Or the same reason no one at church would want to hire me as a cook, unless they could choke down badly cooked food. It simply has to do with the job description. To participate in the technical and exceptional activities of the temple, cutting wood, moving carcases, butchering and gutting animals, rendering legal decisions for people, all while maintaining a degree of sanitation, took both physical prowess and mental sharpness. Moreover, even a Levite who didn't make the cut (no pun intended) was still considered a Levite and a child of God.

Here is our fundamental mistake: We mix up the heavenly temple, which we all have access to via Jesus, with the earthly temple, to which not everyone should have access. One temple is coming and indeed is still being built. The other is an earthly model, subject to physical boundries and limitations. The temple is basically a large resturant, and its basic rules of sanitation are good to have.

The euphoria we experience when we sing together in worship in God's presence was never limited to the physical temple nor did it only come about after Jesus. God's presence has never been limited to the temple (See Solomon's temple dedication prayer). Heaven follows God.

Then why do we need Jesus? Jesus changes people into true worshippers by changing our heart condition and inclining it toward God. The barrior between us and God has never been a curtain hanging in an archway. The barrior is my own unfaithfulness. God is already a forgiving God, but Jesus can infuse me with the Holy Spirit which fundamentally changes my loyalty and fidelty, my desire for God and ability to obey God.

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