Surprise, you’re a temple

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

January 18th & 19th, 2009

            I have before you a couple of items of value in our home.  The first is an album of pictures when our children were young.   This is uniquely valuable to us, because tied to these pictures are shared memories unique to our family.  Second we have this ratty old baseball glove.  It’s not used anymore, and 30 years ago I might have considered tossing it away, but not today because this was my first baseball glove.  Third, we have a string of pearls; really this is the fake string, because I’m not allowed to bring this other one out of the house.  “I tend to lose things”.  These all have value to our family, but for different reasons.  The picture’s value is based on our shared memories.  The baseball glove is significant, because of its nostalgic value, and the pearls because of their financial value.    To do something like this to these valuable items may makes us shudder.  (crinkle up a pictures, throw away the glove, and cut up the beads, I will have replaced these with something similar before cutting them up).   Today we hear that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, extremely valuable to the one who paid the ultimate price to make us worthy to be in his presence.   Our God has not only created us, but he has made the ultimate in investments, his own blood, to bring us into his kingdom.    We are called to treat his valuable investment appropriately or according to the value he has placed on us. 

            Have you ever had conversations like this in your household or at least heard of conversations like this often given by an adult to the children in the home?   “Knock it off”.  “Why”, because I said so.  The child responds but, but…… and you say “no buts I don’t want to hear it “Knock it off”.    Frankly this well worn technique is quick to the point, and can be quite effective.   When Paul confronts this dear little Corinthian congregation on issues like divisiveness, falling away from the good news of Christ crucified in favor of “rational” beliefs, lawsuits among believers, attending the Lord’s Supper half heartedly, worship disorder, pride, and yes even improper intimate relations he doesn’t just say “Knock it off”….no buts about it, you know the commandments, you know better than that.”  If he would have done this,   it would have been a much shorter letter.   However, he takes a different tact.   A tact that shares something about the Savior, and how he has lifted us up and given us a status, a significance, that simply cannot be matched in this world.  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20).”   On this basis our lives are different, on this basis our actions are to connect with our status in Christ’s eyes.  Just as I wouldn’t destroy our valuable memories, all the more we are called to live as a “temple of the Holy Spirit”. 

            However, we live surrounded by a culture that is very similar to that which the Corinthians congregation lived in.   Everyone in this town knew about a great temple to “Aphrodite”, a place where more than 1,000 women plied “their trade” of all things in the name of a religion.  You could say that they were the Las Vegas of the day, because to “Corinthisize” was a general term used throughout the Roman world to describe ones immoral behavior.   This was an environment where intimate relations were not only assumed to take place outside of the marital covenant, but also encouraged. It was normal, sort of like eating and drinking.    This belief system could not help but affect this little Corinthians Christian bunch.   According to one Historian “Romans marriages had greatly deteriorated; they had become a “loose and voluntary compact and religious and civil rights were no longer essential.  Marriage was “detested as a disagreeable necessity, and therefore marital unions were very short-lived”.    Now at least in our setting, it may not quite be this extreme.  However the “Corinthisizing behavior, and that associated with it is no longer taboo or at least as taboo.   Many examples could be given.  But let me share one. One where the results of treating our bodies as if they are not valuable, have tremendous impact on many lives in our area.   This past week I was at a local circuit Pastor’s conference, and here some fellow clergy reminded me that this week is “Sanctify of Life Sunday”.   In the past we have emphasized this, and other years not as much.   As part of the conversation, I asked out of general curiosity where people in this area go to “end a pregnancy”.  I was informed that in Granite City in what is  I think sadly titled “Hope Clinic” up 6,000 “quote unquote” procedures are done on a yearly basis.  What is unique about this clinic is that they perform their procedures all the way through the second trimester. This sadly is one of the results of a people who have forgotten, maybe even Christians who have temporarily forgotten, that our bodies are gloriously  not our own, rather we have a higher status, we are temples of the Holy Spirit.    We are meant for lifting up others, and not bringing others down.  

            Now this high status reality is not only given to warn Corinthians and us about ling out the life.  It is also a message of healing for those who have failed God and others.  For those who have ventured to the clinic in Granite City, and others who have treated this body (point to self) as if it/we has little worth.  For those who have forgotten their high status before God, that even now, especially now through Jesus Christ’s shed blood that High Status is available, and freely given.  To those Corinthians Christians who have failed he says “Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”.  You may have forgotten, but believe this reality about yourself.   To give you an idea what this might mean.  Imagine for a moment the status of the temple in early Christianity.   The temple was the most prominent building in Jerusalem; it stood on 35 acres and took 83 years to build.  The inner sanctuary measured just fewer than five football fields in length.   It has been described as having dazzling white marble.  In certain locations it stood up to 60 feet high.  Some of its bricks measured 45 tall, 11 feet thick, and weighed 500 plus tons.  Yet, what made it grand was that here the presence of God dwelled for his people.  Here Jesus went as an infant to visit Simion, and as a 12 year old was in his father’s house.   At Jesus birth he became flesh and “tabernacle” among us.   What glory, what significance.  For you see this temple status is not just given to our faith, but to our bodies as well.  After all Jesus will resurrect the body, Jesus loves the body and soul, he laid down his life not just for the soul, but the body as well.   

            We have things of high value in our homes, and we treat them accordingly.  We are called today, to remember our high worth from our redeeming Savior, and see others as value through Jesus eyes.   Our pictures, my baseball gloves, and yes even these pearls have value.  Yet, it is nothing like being a temple of the Holy Spirit.   1 Peter 2 says this “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nations, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the promises of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.”  To him be the glory both now and forevermore.   Amen.