Jesus shares some terrifying news: before the end of the temple comes, there will be wars and famines, natural disasters and fearful events.  Worse, we Christians will be arrested, betrayed by loved ones, and persecuted.  “Everyone will hate you because of me,” Jesus says.  And yes, the temple, the place where God’s glory dwells, the place first built by Solomon in our earlier readings, then rebuilt by Ezra, then again by Herod, this temple will be destroyed.

But this is typical of Jesus’ message to a suffering population.  And it is not bad news for a few reasons.  First, they were all facing these realities already.  Rather than a warning of loss as we take it today, this is an assurance that though they are persecuted, it is not because God abandoned them but is rather the necessary activity of God’s great change.  And second, though things are and will continue to be hard here, there is a better life awaiting.

Our culture has shunned the message of relief in heaven and focused more on a lived-Kingdom message in the here and now.  Ours, it says, is not to endure and wait for a better tomorrow.  Ours is to make a better today right now.  And this message is a good one for the wealthy, the comfortable, the all-together.  We in America don’t need to await a future paradise: by most accounts and figures, we already have one here and now.  We have plenty of food, health, medicine, luxury, power… we are “living the dream”.

But to a culture like Jesus’, a culture like that of most of the rest of the world, a culture that faces persecution and poverty, sickness and toil, the image of enduring until a blessed tomorrow is a blessed one.  And it is to that audience that the bible was written.  When we get confused by Jesus’ message, we should always remember that it was not written to a culture like ours.

Jesus shares some terrifying news: before the end of the temple comes, there will be wars and famines, natural disasters and fearful events.  Worse, we Christians will be arrested, betrayed by loved ones, and persecuted.  “Everyone will hate you because of me,” Jesus says.  And yes, the temple, the place where God’s glory dwells, the place first built by Solomon in our earlier readings, then rebuilt by Ezra, then again by Herod, this temple will be destroyed.

But this is typical of Jesus’ message to a suffering population.  And it is not bad news for a few reasons.  First, they were all facing these realities already.  Rather than a warning of loss as we take it today, this is an assurance that though they are persecuted, it is not because God abandoned them but is rather the necessary activity of God’s great change.  And second, though things are and will continue to be hard here, there is a better life awaiting.

Our culture has shunned the message of relief in heaven and focused more on a lived-Kingdom message in the here and now.  Ours, it says, is not to endure and wait for a better tomorrow.  Ours is to make a better today right now.  And this message is a good one for the wealthy, the comfortable, the all-together.  We in America don’t need to await a future paradise: by most accounts and figures, we already have one here and now.  We have plenty of food, health, medicine, luxury, power… we are “living the dream”.

But to a culture like Jesus’, a culture like that of most of the rest of the world, a culture that faces persecution and poverty, sickness and toil, the image of enduring until a blessed tomorrow is a blessed one.  And it is to that audience that the bible was written.  When we get confused by Jesus’ message, we should always remember that it was not written to a culture like ours.

There have been a number of temples built for God.  Today’s reading is about the first, Solomon’s Temple, but that temple was destroyed when the Hebrews were taken to exile.  When Ezra returned from exile, he oversaw the construction of the second temple.  But that temple, too, was destroyed.  So Herod, the Roman ruler of Judea, spent 42 years building the next temple, the one we know from Jesus’ life and Paul’s letters.  This temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.

But there is one more temple that still stands today.  Paul states in 1 Cor. 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that His Spirit dwells within you?”  We are the fourth and current temple of the Lord.  This image has a lot of implications for us as believers.

The temple is where God lives.  With the promised Holy Spirit living within us, there is no longer a need for the earthly temple.

The temple is where the regular sacrifices were offered.  Jesus, dying on the cross, was the final sacrifice, atoning for our sins once and for all.  There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices.

The temple was divided into courts to keep uncleanness away from God.  In level after level of concentric circles, the courts of the temple (gentiles, women, men, priests, Holy Place, Holy of Holies) were meant to only allow the worthy to get so close to God.  Through Jesus Christ, everyone gained direct access to God, and the courts are no longer necessary.

Since we are now the temple of God’s spirit, we have the ability to bring God with us to this world.  And in fact, we are commanded to do just that.

There have been a number of temples built for God.  Today’s reading is about the first, Solomon’s Temple, but that temple was destroyed when the Hebrews were taken to exile.  When Ezra returned from exile, he oversaw the construction of the second temple.  But that temple, too, was destroyed.  So Herod, the Roman ruler of Judea, spent 42 years building the next temple, the one we know from Jesus’ life and Paul’s letters.  This temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.

But there is one more temple that still stands today.  Paul states in 1 Cor. 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that His Spirit dwells within you?”  We are the fourth and current temple of the Lord.  This image has a lot of implications for us as believers.

The temple is where God lives.  With the promised Holy Spirit living within us, there is no longer a need for the earthly temple.

The temple is where the regular sacrifices were offered.  Jesus, dying on the cross, was the final sacrifice, atoning for our sins once and for all.  There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices.

The temple was divided into courts to keep uncleanness away from God.  In level after level of concentric circles, the courts of the temple (gentiles, women, men, priests, Holy Place, Holy of Holies) were meant to only allow the worthy to get so close to God.  Through Jesus Christ, everyone gained direct access to God, and the courts are no longer necessary.

Since we are now the temple of God’s spirit, we have the ability to bring God with us to this world.  And in fact, we are commanded to do just that.

What if you, like Aladdin, got three wishes?  Besides “more wishes”, what would you wish for?  Would you look for the trick, the hook, in the gift, or would you trust that this was truly a purely generous offer?  Would you ask for yourself, a loved one, or the whole world?  What if it was only one wish?

Solomon dreams this very scenario.  A young man, thrust into the kingship of God’s people prematurely, he is bound for a lifetime of leading both militarily and politically.  And God gives him one wish.  And where most would ask for long life or great wealth or the defeat of his enemies Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment.  And God is pleased.

Solomon asks for the ability to lead well that his people, God’s people, might flourish.  And so God gives him not only the wisdom he desires but also wealth and honor and, if Solomon obey’s God’s will, long life as well.

I’ve been disciplining myself for quite a while now to truly seek God’s will above any of my desires.  My prayers, on my good days, are simply that God’s plans would succeed, that God’s people would flourish, and that I would know my part in that plan.  Unfortunately, I find that “my good days” are not as often as I’d like them to be, and so I find myself praying selfishly again.  “God, give us this or that; help us succeed in what we do; bless my family, help me pay my bills, and give us peace.”  These prayers are a far cry from, “May Your will be done”.

Are your prayers more about getting what you want or more about getting God what He wants?  Given the promise of answered prayer, what is your wish today?

Luke’s report of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem harkens back to his report of Jesus’ birth in some interesting ways.  One of those ways is the cry of the angels and the people.

When Jesus is born and the angelic army shouts His praises, they shout:
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to humankind.”

When Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt and the people shout His praises, they shout:
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

This message is an interesting one on both counts.  The angels proclaim glory in heaven, peace on earth.  Jesus was the hope for both.  We read in Revelation that when Jesus approaches the throne, there are shouts of glory.  And we read in the New Testament that Jesus is our peace.  Through Him, God fulfilled both pieces of the angelic proclamation.

The human proclamation is interesting in that the initial idea is Peace in Heaven.  Luke is missing the expected “Hosanna” or “Lord, save us!”  Given Luke’s emphasis on Jesus as savior, this is an interesting omission.  Why peace in heaven?  Some translators say that this is not about Jesus bringing peace to heaven, but bringing peace between heaven and earth, between God and humankind.  This makes sense given what will come a week later.

Through Jesus’ death on the cross, He reconciles us to God, bringing peace between us where sin has causes us to be estranged.  I don’t view Jesus’ work to be one of appeasement of an angry God who would otherwise lash out at us because of our sin.  Instead, Jesus died as a gift, a sacrifice, a substitute for us, who deserve all that Jesus got because of our sinfulness.  Instead, Jesus died in our place so that we might once again know the peace of God, and bring Him glory.

David counts his people and 70,000 are killed for it.

Yeah, the bible has some very confusing sections and this is one.  Today we read that God incites David to take a census (though in the parallel account in 2 Cor., it is Satan who, presumably under God’s direction, incites David).  Back in the day, censuses (censi? censees?) were only conducted for 2 reasons: taxation and war.  Only by knowing how many men you had could you know how much to tax each, or how many to call to arms.  David was in a time of relative peace, so probably this was a taxation issue.  I don’t buy the argument of those who claim this was about David’s pride in seeking to know just how great his kingdom was.

With Satan prompting David to this greedy taxation of his people, something Samuel had warned the people about when they pressed for a king against God’s wishes, God punishes David with a terrible choice.  And David chooses to have natural causes inflict the damage rather than his enemies.

This is yet another instance of God using Satan (or “an evil spirit”) as a tool to bring His wrath or testing.  From Job to Baalam to Saul to David, we see the Jewish worldview that God is in control of everything, even the bad things, even evil spirits and Satan himself.  And so God punishes David for his greed, and his people suffer for it.

Once again, Jesus lays out the truth of our absolute dependence on God for our salvation.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He upps the ante on the Pharisees by spelling out the impossible entrance requirements for the Kingdom of God: no lusting, no anger, violent removal of any limb that causes one to sin, perfection itself.  And here again, we see that even the rich, those assumed to be blessed by God because of their righteousness, cannot enter the kingdom of God.  Easier for a 1000 lb. camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle.  And then comes the Point.  Who then can be saved if even the most righteous and blessed among us cannot?  “What is impossible with humankind is possible with God.”

Get that?  “What is IMPOSSIBLE…”  It is impossible for us to live lives righteous enough to enter God’s Kingdom by our own accord.  Yet still some think they can, or more importantly that others should be able to.  We constantly judge others as less worthy of God’s Kingdom than we are, or we judge ourselves as less worthy of God’s Kingdom than anyone else.  Both thoughts are foolishness, and here’s why.

Colin, Komichi, and Jayden are standing on a San Diego pier jutting out into the Pacific.  “I bet I can jump to Hawaii,” Colin muses.  “You’re on!” Jayden replies.  So Colin jumps as far as he can into the Pacific, and travels 3 feet.  “Ha,” he splutters as his head reemerges.  “Beat that!”

Jayden then, standing back from the edge of the pier, takes three long strides and leaps into the Pacific.  He travels 6 feet.  “Beat you!” he calls to Colin who looks chagrined.

With a roll of her eyes, Komichi walks back to the start of the pier, takes a long run and dives off the pier into the Pacific.  When she comes back up for air, she finds she has jumped 12 feet!  “I am so much better than you, Jayden, and I won’t even talk about your pathetic attempt, Colin,” she jibes.  And all three feel superior – or inferior – to the others.

Yet none of them got to Hawaii.