THE CHURCH OF NO TEMPLE
Friday, November 11, 1995
Bible Verses -
And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. - Revelation 21:22
A few thoughts, disjointed in order to save time.
I need to begin by underlining Merrilee¡¯s expression of gratitude to this community. The destruction wrought by the fire was a devastating blow to this congregation, and to come week after week, to see the roofless sanctuary and live with the smell of ashes was a constant burden to the spirit. I wish you could have seen the lightening of these spirits every time a new gift or new offer of help was received. Sometimes there was a sense almost of incredulity, always a sense of wonder.
There is a kind of bittersweet flavor to this for me, though. It is immensely reassuring to know that this kind of caring is there in times of need. It is sad to realize how rarely we are aware of it. The headlines are so full of human folly that it sometimes seems as though any trace of optimism is hopelessly unrealistic. Does it take a blow like this fire to wake us up? If it does, then please, let us try not to fall asleep again.
A word about this church. It is perhaps paradoxical that we celebrate the rebuilding of a ¡°New Jerusalem¡± church--a church named after the Biblical city which had no temple in it. The reason given in the Book of Revelation is very simple. No temple is needed because the glory of God fills the whole city. It is our belief that church is wherever we are, seven days a week, and that the faithful meeting of our responsibilities is a necessary dimension of worship. We come here to understand and strengthen the spirit that should be constant with us, but that is not constant because we are so very human.
The rebuilding reflects a treasuring of the past, an attitude that is very much at home in New England. The devotion of those who went before us was very real, and to ignore it would be to impoverish ourselves needlessly. Obviously, though, we cannot rest on their labors. Perhaps we are closer to their spirit in the freshness of this place than in the fact that it is a restoration. They did not build anything old. What they worked for and loved was as new as this. They were looking ahead.
As we look ahead, it is our hope that this congregation can be of genuine value to the community that has expressed such care for it. It has been so for generations in subtle ways, if only by its constancy in being here at the end of the common. But it has also nurtured people who have cared for their neighbors, who have been integral members of a kind of hidden fabric of trustworthiness. This congregation too is part of the reservoir of good will that can be drawn on in time of need.
There is much in our world, much near at hand, that cries out for help and healing. In the coming years, may we continue to look for ways to bring that latent caring into active service.