Instruments of God's Sanctuary
Psalm 20; Exodus 40:1-15; Hebrews 10:19-25
The intent of this blog was to say one thing about the daily lectionary after each morning prayer service. Today I have four things that stand out, but together they make one image.
First, the consecration of Aaron and the sons of Aaron in Exodus comes right alongside the consecration of all the things of the tabernacle. These will become the things of the temple: the vessels, the instruments, the objects, the tools of worship. Then Aaron and his sons get consecrated. I think that this is interesting because it puts people in the same category as things. If you think of people as better than things, then this might seem odd, literally objectifying and instrumentalizing these people, and in a way that's what's happening. The difference is that God is the one doing the objectification and instrumentalization. If I'm going to be a Holy vessel or tool for God, let it be! One thing that is certainly happening is that these objects and these people are being set apart and made holy for God's purposes. Yes, I want to be consecrated like that.
Next, as I was reading this passage in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church in Pauls Valley, I read about the ark of the covenant and the table and the lamp and the place to burn incense, and I thought about the table right behind me, along with all our other objects of worship. I thought "Look what we've done." They had a table; we have a table. They had manna in the ark; we have bread on the table. They had a lamp-stand; we have candlesticks. Then I realized that they had consecrated priests and only the priests were allowed in this holy of holies, but we have a priesthood of all believers. Everyone has access to the presence of God. Everyone has access to the bread of life. We don't even put it in a box.
That brings us to Hebrews: "we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)." This, of course, is the Christian explanation of how we all have access to God, as I was just observing when thinking about the table in the tabernacle. But today as I was thinking, I though more. Not only do we have access to the presence of God in the heavenly sanctuary through Christ's action on Good Friday (that is through the thing Christ did with his flesh--he died for us), but also, we are the body of Christ. We enter Christ's presence through his flesh and we become part of his body. OK, that's probably not orthodox, but this is the power of symbols: The symbols do the work and we can see them in many different ways at the same time.
Finally, I'm back to the Psalm. "May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion." I didn't see it while I was reading the Psalm, but after all that thought about the instruments of the tabernacle. The Psalm is about the king of Israel getting help from the Lord: "I know that the Lord will help his anointed." In this case we shouldn't think of a future Messiah (=anointed), but the kind of anointing that Samuel did to make kings, specifically King Saul and King David. But after all this talk about us being the priest, about us being the instruments of the sanctuary--looking at the Psalm again after all that, wishing that someone would get help from the sanctuary becomes wishing that we could help them. "May God send you help from the sanctuary," becomes "May God send me, the instrument of the sanctuary, to help you."
So here's the one image that all this adds up to. We are in the position of starting in the sanctuary. We are the body of Christ. When we pray that God would help someone of some group of people or some situation or that God would correct some injustice, we are praying that God would send God's instruments to be that help. We are praying that God would send us out of the sanctuary to help that person or group or situation or cause. May we be the consecrated, holy instruments of God's sanctuary and may we, as the body of Christ find a way to help where we pray that Christ might help.