Glencairn Methodist Church
When the Children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they spent many years in the wilderness before they entered and took possession of the Promised Land. During this time, God had promised to be their God and that they would be his children. He promised to be with them and lead them and the signs of his presence were a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. In addition he instructed them to make a special tent, called the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle, wherein God would meet Moses, representing God’s people.
The Tent of Meeting was a place where heaven and earth met, where God met mortals. So heaven and earth were not separated in this tent. The Tent of Meeting was used right through until Solomon became king of Judah and Israel, when a great Temple was built to supersede the Tent. And now the Temple was the place where God met Man and where heaven met earth.
Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and the people were taken off into exile. They considered this to be a consequence of their apostasy and they felt that God had deserted them, that he on longer met with them, that there was no longer a place where heaven and earth met. This inspired the exiles to return to the Torah and to believe the prophets who said that one day God would once again deliver his people and restore Jerusalem and the temple, and once again he would be with his people.
They did indeed return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple now called the Second Temple. However it was never the same as before. Time after time the land was conquered by this power and that. For a while the Jews regained their freedom under Judas Maccabaeus, but that didn’t last and the land came under Roman rule. Herod, the puppet King of Judea, did repair and restore the Temple, and this was good, but the ruling class of Priests were corrupt, concerned only with the continuation of the Temple rituals and their own power in the community. Add to this the nastiness of Roman rule and life was difficult for ordinary people. But still they held fast to the belief that God would send a saviour, a Messiah, another Moses to lead his people to freedom.
Into this situation Jesus was born. His ministry was anticipated by John the Baptist who warned people that the “Kingdom of God was near”. The Kingdom of God! God himself was soon to be King, and the bring freedom to his people. WOW! And then Jesus began his ministry with the words “The time has come. The Kingdom of God was near”.
Jesus had started his “Kingdom of God” movement. But he didn’t raise an army as expected. Instead his preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7.) saying, “Turn the other cheek”; “love your enemies” and much more unexpected teaching. What did he do? He healed the sick; he restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Eventually he declared himself to be the Messiah, he confronted the corrupt practices of the Temple and he stood up to the Romans, accepting death as King of the Jews. He said he would destroy the Temple and build a new one in three days. In Jesus’ understanding of the Kingdom of God, Jesus himself would be the New Temple, where God met people and heaven met earth. Freedom from slavery was actually freedom from sin. Those who believe in him are welcomed into this Kingdom where God reigns, where sickness and death are no more, where all the powers of this world, both spiritual and secular, are defeated.
The Kingdom of God is NOW but is still NOT YET. Even though they are defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection, there is still sin and sickness and death and tyranny and temptation. Nevertheless there are many sings of the Kingdom around us. People are healed through the God given gifts of the medical sciences AND through the power of prayer.
And, at last this brings me to my title, “Letting Go”. You may know that I was in hospital recently for a spinal operation which was intended to help relieve leg pain. I met the surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation and I trusted them to operate carefully and with good intent. Furthermore the Church prayed fervently for my safety and healing. Now the operation was to be under general anaesthetic and while I have had other surgery in recent years, this would be the first time for a general anaesthetic since I had my tonsils removed in childhood under chloroform. I realised that I would have to “let go”, to lose control, to hand over my well being to others that I trusted. And this is an uncomfortable this to do. Stories of people dying on the operating table came to mind. But yet that is what I had to do to allow this healing to begin.
The healing that Jesus brings to citizens of the Kingdom of God also requires those who want it to “Let Go” to let go of their former life of sin which leads to the death of the soul, and to trust the Soul Doctor, Jesus, to take control. Sometimes this is difficult for us to do. We are very attached to our way of life and are reluctant to let go. But let go we must! Don’t be afraid, trust Jesus.
[You may find it helpful to read the book Simply Jesus by Tom Wright and published by SPCK in 2011]
8th September 2012
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm