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Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, Canada
The Perfect Temple

"The Perfect Temple"

Matthew 5:38-48
February 20, 2011

Fellow baptized saints and holy temples of the Spirit of God, a number ofyears ago on the university campus in Michigan, a new large beautiful building was constructed. It was heralded as the latest and greatest in artistic and architectural design. Crowds of people flocked to see its grand opening. The exciting part about this new building was that it was designed to represent and depict the truth about life. As you entered the main doors, you would immediately sense the unique manner in which the interior was arranged. Large beautiful pillars hung from the ceilings that abruptly stopped halfway to floor. Ornate mirrors that spanned the length of a room were shattered. There were staircases that led nowhere. Doors without handles. Walls that did not reach the ceiling. The crowd marveled and praised the unique design saying, "This building shows that all things are relative, and that there is no absolute truth. Look how serenely it captures the essence of life." (pause) But there was one man who looked around at the odd construction and thought to himself, "I wonder if the foundation is built in the same way?"

As we all know, the foundation of this building was conventional. It was built to ensure the safety of the building. Although the people who designed it wanted to do away with this idea, they had no way of creating a structure without a foundation. Their building was designed to show the uncertainty of life, but the foundation they built upon showed that life is stable when you build on the right foundation.

In our epistle reading, St. Paul reveals that while mankind is busy building a structure to show the uncertainty of life, God is busy building a structure to show His faithfulness. While mankind is building pillars that stop halfway from the floor, God is laying stones of truth. While mankind is mounting shattered mirrors, God is providing a clear reflection of His truth.

Your heavenly Father is building His Holy Temple. A temple of perfection, which is founded on the truth, His Son Jesus Christ. He is the foundation. He is the perfect reflection. He is the cornerstone. This building does not have fake pillars or shattered mirrors. It does not change based on the situation at hand. It does not provide for exceptions. It is solid. Perfect. Built upon Christ Himself. Built to hold the Spirit of God. Built by God and for God. A holy temple, that is His Church.

Wow. Now that sounds like a building worth seeing. How do you build a temple like that? Well, thankfully today, Jesus, the foundation of the temple, teaches us how to build on Him. Each saying from His mouth is like a stone of gold that Christ builds into His Holy Temple. Jesus teaches what it means to be perfect. He teaches what it means to be holy. If we build as He says, then we can be certain we are building on the foundation. We need to ask, ĎAre we the Church building on Christ the foundation, or are we building pillars that stop halfway to the floor?í

In one saying we hear, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to the edge." In other words, do not use all of your income for you and your family and friends. Every time you make Ďa harvestí, give some to those who have less. This is part of what it means to be holy. This is a golden stone of truth.

In another saying we hear, "You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people." In other words, do not gossip. Leave the room when other people are badmouthing someone. Ask people not to speak about such things in front of you. This is part of what it means to be holy. This is a golden stone of truth.

In yet another saying we hear, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart" and "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge." In other words, forgive everyone, no matter what they have done to you, and regardless of whether or not you feel as though they deserve it. This is part of what it means to be holy. This is a golden stone of truth.

Jesus also says, "Do not resist the one who is evil." In other words, let people do you wrong. He says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." In other words, when people attack you, show them mercy and treat them well.

Whoa, whoa, whoa Ė wait a minute Ė Now we know you are trying to build a Holy Temple Lord, but havenít you gone too far? What do you mean, let people do you wrong? What about self-confidence? What about standing up for yourself? Our Lord replies softly. Dearly beloved, if I had stood up for myself before Pontius Pilate, all of you would be lost forever, for I would not have been crucified for your salvation. No, being holy means letting others stand up for you. As St. Paul writes, Do you not know that you are Godís temple, and that Godís Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys Godís temple, God will destroy him. You do not need to stand up for yourself when you are holy. This is a golden stone of truth.

Jesus wraps up His temple building seminar by saying, "You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

So how well are you doing at being Godís holy temple? Are you building on Christ the foundation, or are you building pillars that stop halfway to the floor? We may start building a pillar of gold, but only up until a certain point. We donít really want to build on such a solid foundation as Christ. That temple is too holy. Perhaps we would rather shamefully settle for a university building after all. But our question from the beginning of the sermon seems unanswered, how do you build a temple like that?

The answer is found in the foundation itself. While He walked this earth teaching His disciples, Jesus revealed that His body was the true temple of God. As God in the flesh, His body carried the presence of God around to everyone He encountered. He said, "Destroy this temple, and I shall raise it again in three days." And that is exactly what happened. In His human body, God the Son fulfilled all of the difficult demands we heard Him teach today. He gave to others, even His own life. He forgave everyone, even those who crucified Him. He let His enemies put Him to death in order to save them from the very sins they were committing in that dark moment.

Jesus laid a foundation of blood. A foundation of His own body, and yet He rose from the grave as He promised, body and all. His body is far more precious than gold or silver. It is far more stable than the strongest metal or concrete we might use to build today. It is the eternal human body of immortal God, laid as a foundation for your salvation, a platform of certainty, an immovable rock that will be built upon by the wise. Jesus has accomplished in His body everything that you and I need for eternal life and salvation, and He offers it to you freely in His Holy Supper.

How does God build a Holy Temple like that? Through the Lordís Supper, God puts Himself in you to make you a part of His Holy Temple. He has declared, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." And now He feeds Himself to you to make this happen. You receive the real presence of Almighty God in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion, for you eat the true body of our Lord Jesus Christ. In eating Him, you are forgiven of all your sins. For building pillars that stop halfway to the floor. For worrying about yourself instead of Godís holy temple. You are made holy by the body of Christ. You become the Holy Temple of God, the place where God dwells.

Christ is not building an old-fashioned Nickelodeon or movie theatre where we are entertained for the morning Ė He is not building a prized university structure with inconsistent architecture. He is not building on shifting sand, rules that change according to exceptions and situations. He is building a temple Ė an eternal temple that will never change! A temple of His own body. A temple of forgiveness. The perfect temple. One that built of you and me. Come, eat His body, receive forgiveness and be made a part of His perfect temple. In Jesusí name, Amen.

Rev. Cameron Schnarr