Friday, 25 January 2013

The Authority of the Sanctuary - Responses

Well, some of you out there were lightning quick responding.  Piers asked "Can you give more guidance on how we decide who to bar from access to grace in these New Testament days?"  I'm sure over the years he's as astute as most, and likewise still learning from mistakes. 

Anglicans and others who hold that their priesthood has representative significance have the toughest time.  By this, like their second Adam, their clergy must be ordained and male, wholly to fulfil the completeness of humanity.   The Reformation in large measure took clergy from the altar and the confessional into the pulpit and the home.  Pastors replaced priests.  We, from its radical segment, have an even easier time.  We just need leaders of biblical (New Testament) qualification. 

 John, whom I had name-checked, was more challenging: "And in Matthew 21 we see Jesus's temple action overturns tables, 'allows in' the blind and lame who would otherwise have been excluded, heals them.  Lesson is, almost all teaching from the OT is wrong!"  The parallel example I use is Peter and John healing the lame man sitting excluded (Acts 3), who then exuberantly joins them in the Temple, having had "in the Name of Jesus" his covenant inheritance restored.

But (pace John) that wasn't quite my point.  A good exegesis of Leviticus will draw out that the powerful message of the tabernacle was:
(a) it was a place of breathtaking beauty, with no place for disfigurement or defilement.  References to the garments being for glory (Exodus 28), the oil and incense being reserved for sacred use (Exodus 30), and craftsmen being supernaturally gifted (Exodus 31) all point to matchless splendour in holiness;
(b) it was a place of overwhelming life with no place for decay or death.  It's home to the Yahweh of creation, providence, conquest, healing.  Hence the prohibition on contact with corpses, many of the "cleanliness" regulations, and the death sentence on any who trifled with the whole set-up of the system.

These - and I'm not extending to forgiveness, etc. - are glimpses into the awesome nature of God.  Here's where I agree with John.  Human-centred interpretations pitched at how prescriptive, or how petty and prejudiced Yaweh must be to impose exclusions, completely miss the point.  Why, we're daily surrounded by consumer offerings that boast, "It's the ones we throw away that make our product so special"; and buyers love it.

We of low church heritage miss the point.  The transcendent God celebrated in towering Norman and superb Gothic architecture, like Chartres and early English cathedrals, has been replaced by "Jesus, my mate", "experienced" in comfort and familiarity.

I met an Australian who'd travelled widely before finding faith.  He'd survived battering storms in the Indian ocean, and had climbed high in the Himalaya.  He pitied our "town planning" scale of perspective.  These experiences commanded that the God he'd come to admire and eventually bow to, and to trust boldly, was unimaginable to average Brits.  God, open our souls!

On this scale of reference, we need to approach God thoughtfully, circumspectly, and seek to lead others there.  Our events together and in public may be informal and relaxed, but please, not banal and indiscriminate.

I'm suspicious of fully-encultured theology.  Here I must observe that those who daily sit nearer the modern media are most in danger of influence from its voices, liberalism and all.  Yes, you can include Steve Chalke.  The last place our lost society will find salvation is in unboundaried humanistic tolerance.  We need the One Who is Other - an Other Source - to step in and tell us the way; be the Way. 

Authority of the sanctuary is part of that way.  I don't mistake it for unthinking prejudice, comforting religious "certainties", fears of personal contamination, cut-price exegesis.  The fearful destiny of the church is to walk in step with the Holy Spirit.  However we seek, listen and discern that to be.  There's no turning back.  Consumer-bought substitutes, blind denominational tradition and the biases of Western hermeneutic all fail us in this inconvenient pilgrimage.  God, give us big ears and brave hearts. 

Thanks to Mike Shaw for the image.

1 comment:

pierscjc said...

I think you're saying awe and reverence befit us and should keep us from a casual approach to God, but apart from being led by the Holy Spirit you don't go much further in 'guidance on how we decide who to bar from access to grace in these New Testament days'. Or is it a question of whether those (whoever) who wish to approach God with us do so with reverence?