RVL continues to consider what it would have been like for newly converted Greeks in the First Century. He reminds us that all the pagan religions promised a form of heaven to follow death. What made Christianity special?
The lesson continues at Priene. There was once a large temple to Athena, which offered a fountain of fresh water for visitors. We take water for granted and rarely think to thank God each time we drink or wash. The ancient pagans gave credit to Athena, but the Christians credited the God of heaven.
Pythius was the architect of the temple. He was a world famous architect. The temple was similar to the Parthenon in Athens, with extraordinary statuary. There would have been a statue of Athena over 20 feet tall.
The temple would have provided, food, clothing, daycare, even medical care — often for free for the poor. There may even have been theatrical plays there.
The stones were each marked in the quarry for the exact place to be built into the temple.
The purpose of the temple was to declare the greatness of Athena to the world.
After AD70, where was the temple of the God of the Jews? Paul declared that the temple of God was not made with hands, in Athens.
“Listen those who pursue righteousness and seek after God, remember the quarry from which you were cut …” Isa.
“As you come to him, the living Stone, rejected my men, but chosen by God …” 1 Pet
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit? … God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple.” 1 Cor 3
God lived in the small house churches in the Grecian towns. The early Christians believed that their congregations were where the One True God lives.
God shapes us into the kinds of stones God wants us to be. And we are all built to fit in a particular place — a place designed by God in his temple. Therefore, when Peter calls us “living stones,” he is speaking of our being built into a temple. We all have a place God made just for us.
God chose to live in us rather than the temple in Jerusalem or any new temple. We become, in flesh, the very word of God.
What if you take a stone out of the temple? Would it still have the Spirit? God’s Spirit lives in the temple — “you” in 1 Cor 3 — you are the temple — is plural. We are the temple as a community.
Being a disciple is about belonging to a community which becomes the place where God lives by his Spirit. The community is where the text is lived to say to the world: God’s presence is among us. And that only happens when we love our neighbors.
The greatness of Athena is now ruins — scattered — a dim memory. What if we look like this to God — a field of scattered stones that should be built together into a temple? Divided? Arguing? Not getting along? What does that tell the world about who God is?
God wants the world to know who he is by the way his disciples live in community — because this will change the whole world. Not just the teachings found in the text — but the text lived in community through love.
In a Greek world that was all about “me,” the world was changed by a small group of people who cared about others.
Just two questions:
1. How can the church (a congregation) live — as a community — in a way that will show itself to be the temple of God?
2. How can the church — the church universal — be united in a way that shows itself to be God’s temple?