Meet my friend the dead saint. Somewhere along the road he lost a leg, but then he got bedazzled and placed in his own little altar in a church in Germany, where people pray to him hoping he’ll talk God into letting them go to heaven.
WHAT?!! Crazy but true. People are worshiping this dude. In a cathedral. I started digging through the Bible to figure out what kind of temple God really desires. Surely it’s not this!
Originally, God told Moses to build a tabernacle, or a portable tent temple, for Him to dwell in while the Israelites did circles in the desert. His instructions were clear that it should be made of only the best material (Exodus 26). This was to reflect his power and holiness, and He wanted all the nations to know of His glory.
Solomon builds God a permanent temple in Jerusalem. This was their only access to the presence of God at that time. The beauty of the temple was like that of the tabernacle. But it didn’t take long to mess things up. In 1&2 Kings, we see that within one generation idols pull people out of the temple. Then Egypt raids the temple, kings build it back up to make it “better” than other cities’ temples, attacker are paid off with temple riches, false idols are brought into the temple itself, and finally Babylon conquers Israel and destroys it. Whew.
Despite the efforts of multiple kings to rebuild the temple and bring it back to its original purpose and condition, the temple was defiled FAST. You can see this trend has continued throughout time in the histories of Europe’s cathedrals. I had the privilege of walking around a number of them this summer and was appalled at what I heard.
The cathedral above in Ulm was originally started to glorify God; the people put their own money into building it. But it turned into an idol as they thought to seek fame by building the tower to be the highest in the world. Others on the Romantic Road in Germany are gilded and gorgeous but people in that time were poor and hungry, and the priests took from them to build their own glory.
Then there’s the relics. We went to one museum that talked about how relics were treasures of more worth than gold because possession and worship of them were seen as a source of salvation. I hit a point this week where I could not stand to see a single relic more. I love this clip from the movie Luther (if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it is FANTASTIC)
1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
What are you worshiping in the temple of your heart? Are you worshiping something created- your house, success at your job, your group of friends, actors, politicians? Where is your church directing your worship- the worship band’s abilities or the snazzy programs? What consumes your thoughts, recieves your money, takes your breath away?
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve got a lot of relics and idols in the temple of my heart. It’s a little overwhelming until I realize that I can’t fix it by myself. But with the Holy Spirit working in me,I can start to focus my eyes more on God and less on my idols. I’ve been studying the attributes of God and keep finding that He is much more able to truly satisfy my desires than my idols. My friends can’t fill my desire to be fully known and fully loves. My job won’t fill my desire for purpose. And no matter how much I study, I won’t fill my desire for truth until I seek God.
Today I stepped foot in a cathedral that was drastically different. Every sign I read pointed to the gospel. There were no relics, and the stained glass depicted bible stories rather than legend. Strasbourg gets it. It’s not about the art or the famous dead dudes. It’s not about us. It’s about Christ.