So many of the Psalms focus on the Temple, on Zion, as a place of pilgrimage, joy, security. I am wondering what others feel when they pray a Psalm centered on Temple imagery, since I have not usually responded emotionally to this image–certainly not in the intense way that Jews of ancient Israel would have responded to it.
Lately, though, out of the blue I’ve been feeling accompanied by the image of the Temple, as if it’s awaking and speaking to me–not in words, but with understanding. I have known that as Christians, we regard the body of Jesus as our Temple. I have known that temples all over the world represent places where the sacred meets this earth. But for some reason I have been sensing the power of the Temple, as if finally after a long time of praying one or two Psalms a day, something is sinking in.
It’s clear from the Psalms that the Temple is the place where God dwells. But what I’ve been noticing of late is the sense in which the Temple is that place in prayer where we can rest apart from all our joys and anxieties, and where too we place–as on an altar–all the joys and anxieties of that hour or day. Oddly, as the gift of a new person enters my life, I find that it is just as important to be able to journey to the Temple amid and apart from the joy of this gift as it is to seek rest in God amid and apart from something difficult. The Temple’s reality reminds us that our lives are never wholly determined by our relationships with one another, with fellow creatures and all the lines we draw with our lives, messy and neat.
But it is not only that the Temple is a place to see and know a Sabbath rest. For what the Temple means for Christians is inseparable from the words of the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The other facet of the Temple I sense I’m learning has to do with the way that Jesus asks us to ask his Abba to come. Jesus our Temple, our way to God, does not direct us to a place that is settled and secure, set up on a hillside for all to see; instead, Jesus directs us to petition God to come to us, as if our prayers could help draw God from exile into a fuller manifestation here on earth.
The Temple is where heaven touches earth, in our hearts, our vision–and at all other times, in the yearning with which we forget all else (joyful and burdensome) but a petition for the arrival of God’s kindom.