On our travels through biblical times with Ray Vander Lan he brings us back to Priene, Turkey. In Priene everything was dedicated to the goddess Athena. There was even a fountain in the middle of the city. Out of the mouth of the fountain came fresh water and families told their kids that the water came from Athena.
As Americans we drink water every day. The water comes from drinking fountains, bottles, faucets, the hose, etc. How many of you thought of God the last time you drank or looked at water? I know I didn’t. We take water and drink of it as if it is just there. The Lord provides us with food and water. The believer in Priene could stop at the fountain and declare God. We can do that to when we drink a bottle of water or have a water gun fight. God provides the water!
Next stop is the temple of Athena. The temple was huge and was crafted by an architect that crafted one of the 7 wonders of the world. In the temple they provided food, clothes, medical care, entertainment, and sometimes even daycare. The temple helped in the name of Athena. The temple showed the world how great she was and what she provided.
Now imagine we are part of the small home church in Priene. Your son or daughter spent the day with a friend and they went to the temple of Athena. Your child comes back and says, “Where is ours? Where is the temple to our God? Where can we go to see how great our God is?”
How do you answer these questions?
Let me show you the picture God paints:
In Isaiah: “Listen, you who pursue righteousness and seek after God. Remember the rock from which you are cut and the query from which you were chosen. Remember Abraham your father and Sarah who gave birth to you.
1 Peter: “As you come to him the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God. You also as living stones are being built into a spiritual house.”
Corinthians: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God’s spirit lives in you. If anyone harms God’s temple God will destroy him for God’s temple is sacred and you arte that temple.”
You know where God lived in Priene. Not in some big temple but in those people. He lived in and among them. Each one of you and me is a stone. And we have been hand chosen from the query to form God’s house. Everyone is a stone and chosen for a specific place and God forms us chip by chip. Some are chosen for the big stone in the front of the house that is seen by everyone. Others are chosen for the small but crucial stone that is in the foundation. The one that nobody sees but everybody needs.
God said I don’t want to live in a temple made by human hands. He says I want to live in you. He would rather live in you than the biggest most beautiful temple in the world. The spirit of God lives in every stone but they must all work together to build the temple. Being a disciple is being part of a community where God lives by His spirit. The community is not only to encourage and teach text. It is where we live to declare to the world that the presence of God is in us.
The proof that God is in His people is that they love one another and his people. And so what happens when the community of God does not get along. The message of God is hidden.
If we look at the temple of Athena today the greatness is scattered around a field. It is in ruins and is a dim memory. But what if for God that is how His church and the temple looks, in ruins, broken apart. We as a church need to look like God’s temple in which the Holy Spirit lives. Not just a place where people can get powerful teaching and God’s word, but a community that lived in the presence of God.
May God’s presence live in the world, because it is in you!!