Published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, November 23, 2010
Near the end of a church year Christians inevitably hear Bible readings about a day of judgment and what some call “the end times” – and that means different things to different people.
Luke 21:6 portrays the disciples of Jesus marveling at the magnificence of the temple in Jerusalem with its lovely stonework and ornamental images. He said to them: “You can gaze on all this today, but the time is coming when not a single stone will be left upon another; it will all be destroyed.”
Now if we take seriously biblical references that God never wanted a permanent temple to be built, such an observation ought to help us realize that as important and in some cases, as magnificent as our places of worship might be, they are secondary to the ultimate concerns of what worship, faith, and life are all about.
When God spoke through Hebrew prophets the word was very clear: “What I want is love, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). “This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
God is not looking for religious rituals or liturgies, but acts of love, mercy and justice. That is the essence of what authentic and transcendent faith and life are all about – regardless of our religious tradition, or how we name God or our place of worship, or even if we have no place of worship or no God at all.
Religions, in and of themselves – and especially the “temples’ they may erect – have no permanent significance and all their symbolism will pass away. But faith – in the practice of love, mercy and justice – will last forever.
The Rev. Don Prange is the minister at St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville.