Sunday school lesson for the week of November 2, 2014
By Rev. John Brantley
Lesson scripture: Ezekiel 43.1-12
1 Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. 2 And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. 3 The vision I saw was like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. 4 As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, 5 the spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me out of the temple. 7 He said to me: Mortal, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will reside among the people of Israel forever. The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring, and by the corpses of their kings at their death. 8 When they placed their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they were defiling my holy name by their abominations that they committed; therefore I have consumed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away their idolatry and the corpses of their kings far from me, and I will reside among them forever. 10 As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities. 11 When they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the plan of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form—all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and follow the entire plan and all its ordinances. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. This is the law of the temple. [NRSV]
Focus: God makes the temple holy.
Reflection: How many times have you heard one generation say to a member two generations down the line, “No running in the sanctuary!” or “You can’t take your coffee in there; it’s the sanctuary.” The unspoken word is this: “We have protected this space for quiet reflection; the wood and brass have been polished, and the floors have been swept and vacuumed. The holy and hermetical seal of reverences has been affixed to the doors of this room and it is only a place for quiet hymns, trimmed candles and seasonal flowers. Don’t mess it up for those who have kept God’s house this way so long.”
We need a course correction. The sanctuary is for God, not for us. Contrary to most worshippers, our worship is the expression of our praise and celebration of God love, power and presence. It is neither a place to find music ‘we’ like nor liturgy that affirms our political views in religious words. The sanctuary is the place God puts up God’s feet to rest.
When we make it our home God steps in to clean house.
Where do you get to take off your shoes and put up your feet? Is it in a favorite chair? Is there a special spot on the porch or by the fire that makes your feel comfortable and at home? God’s resting place is in the holy of holies. It’s God’s house built for God’s rest. Ezekiel sees how the dutiful people have perverted God’s house as their own house and God is not going to stand for it any longer.
Verse 7 is the heart of this text: Mortal, you are not God and this temple is not your house. Worship is passionate and meaningful for us because it becomes the time and place we engage God in praise. Reflective prayer is for the privacy of our bedroom, prayer closet, small group or Sunday school class.
Matt Redman experienced a fast from musical instruments, all sound equipment and all technology. Attendance dropped, but after the fast and when all was returned to worship he wrote “The Heart of Worship” out of what he learned and experienced.
When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart . . . I’m coming back to the Heart of Worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus. [HoW, Redman]
Homework: Look around your sanctuary and see how many plaques have Jesus’ name instead of our names. Ask your class, “whose house is this, anyway?”
Prayer: I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus. Amen.
Rev. John Brantley is pastor of Rock Springs UMC in the North Georgia Conference. Contact him at email@example.com.