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You Are The Temple:
A Sermon to the Congregation of the First Church of Cyberspace by Stephen C. Rose

Don't you know you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (KJV -- mildly revised.)
-- 1st Corinthinas 3:16

Cyberspace is offering the world another chance to figure out what the curious advent of one Jesus Christ actually means.

Wherever you may be reading this, a few blocks from my apartment in New York City or halfway around the globe, whether you have never heard of Jesus Christ or have simply said Sayonara to organized religion, cyberspace says, Let's try again.

Let's try again to say what religion is finally all about.

Let's try to say why it matters to you.

Well, it is clear enough that this preacher believes Jesus Christ is what religion is about, but if you are thinking it is because Jesus beats the competition, think again.

The reason Jesus Christ is important, and why he does "beat the competition," is because he came then, and comes now, to abolish religion as the world has known it. The clue is in the incendiary sentence above: You are the temple of God. Jesus brought good news, not old news.

What is this about? Well, it is about many things: Your life, what you do with it, how you look at yourself and others. It is about what is decent and what is not. It is about truth.

And if you happen to be at a stage in life when nothing seems to be working and you do not know where to turn or what to do, it is about that too.

I have called the advent of Jesus Christ curious. It is curious that God would come in a particular person at a particular time. And that the Bible would claim that this Jesus was born of a Virgin called Mary. And that his best friend John (writer of the Fourth Gospel) would claim that he created the world and was one from the beginning with God.

What does all this mean? It means that only one person among others gets truth right -- in the same way that only one password will get you online.

It means that Jesus is special because, though he is fully human, he is fully divine. Where have you heard that before? In the language of gurus! Guru's claim divinity but they do not have it. Why do Christians claim Jesus did? Surely we cannot "prove" all of the things said about Jesus. When John says Jesus was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and that through him "all things" were made, you may ask if I have the cosmological credentials to tell you such things.

But there "is" proof and Jesus brings the proof. Not me or anyone else. And you can have immediate access to it -- right on your monitor. (If you are thinking this is a not-so-subtle pitch for one or another religious organization, think again! My only purpose is to show that the good news of Jesus makes sense right at the cutting edge of the world that is presently evolving. Right here online. My reference is available to all:   It is the Bible interpreted as Jesus interpreted it -- as a living and evolving body of understanding.)

The proof Jesus brought relates directly to you, and to everyone else in the world. But I can see a big cloud forming. It is the cloud of deja vu. Jesus and church are synonymous. There are eight zillion churches out there and even more than that if you count TV. They all seem to want something. They seem to be in competition with other religions. In short, where is the beef when fallible partial churches are entrusted with the message? You shop around and take your choice!

If you are still here, this is the whole point. Cyberspace is offering us a chance to look at the choice again -- beyond past notions of church. Jesus came to abolish religion and make *us* -- me and you -- the true temple of God's Spirit.

Here are ten ways Jesus did this:

1. He taught us to pray directly to Abba -- the familiar for God the Father -- and this direct contact is more important than any external observance or public prayer.

2. He said what we "do" is more important as worship than strict observances on the Sabbath. He did this by claiming Lordship of the Sabbath, by healing on the Sabbath and by consistently affirming people whether they observed the Sabbath or not.

3. He gave us Beatitudes which are a way of living, not an invitation to attend the Temple. These Beatitudes emphasize characteristics that have little to do with what religions of all stripes offer. They are about being permanently insecure (like us!), being mad at various injustices (like us!), suffering through this and that (like us!). They are about living peace and mercy, not about finding security in a protected religious environment.

4. In fact, Jesus physically attacked the Temple in Jerusalem and declared that it should be a house of prayer for "all" nations. He thereby abolished for all time the business-foundations of organized religion.

5. Abba (Jesus's name for God) tells us to listen to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus turns down Peter's suggestion that "shrines" be built to commemorate the great event. Jesus is a complete iconoclast when it comes to all the idolatry we create around celebrity.

6. John the Baptist was Jesus's sort of prophet. When Jesus went to be baptized by John, it was clearly understood that from then on baptism would be something that only God could perform -- namely a fire or Spirit baptism that would fall upon individuals without the intermediary work of priests and religious institutions.

7. Similarly the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread with his disciples, was a simple meal in an upper room -- more akin to a "house church" than some organized temple event.

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8. Jesus came to fully vindicate his good news and to fully eradicate both idolatry and the hypocrisy of organized religion. (Did I forget to say, The Good News is that God's Way is at hand, doable and should become normal human behavior, universally?) This REVOLUTION required that Jesus attack the Temple and incur the wrath of religious leaders. Also that he refuse to bow down to the Roman state. Jesus offers no simple moral solutions to problems that can only be solved by a massive change -- he cuts to the chase and says we need a new spirit and that only Abba can give it to us. He eliminated the middle man.

9. Jesus did not merely suffer and die at the hands of religion and state, he did so willingly and with full confidence that his abolition of the religion of the past would be victorious. This confidence took the form of belief that he would end up back with Abba. And that those who "believed" would receive the crucial gift of the Holy Spirit. This was the baptism of fire John referred to.

10. A great cloud of witnesses to the truth of Jesus saw him "risen," experienced the "inrushing power of the Spirit" and gathered in small caring groups to marvel at the wonder they had seen and touched. They sang and prayed and "shared all things in common."

Now it is two-thousand years after the fact and do you know what? Abba keeps giving us chances to understand what really happened, because Abba is merciful and wondrously thorough. If the world did not "get it" then, perhaps the cyber-world will!

Second chances are always given -- in the moral realm. When we enslave and abuse each other, some who understand Jesus or "implicitly understand him" (like many of the people he met who were not members of any religious organization) stand up for his championship of the child, of the abused woman or man, of the poor and the sick.

I could list another ten or one hundred things that all say one thing: We are being given another chance. Right here. Right before our eyes. Right now. The chance is both a burden and a feather in our hand.

Offered: A "living" relationship with Abba -- who is in heaven. Seriously. That is what this is about. Jesus opens the door to this helping, nurturing, one-to-one relationship. You can begin it on your side right now with one simple act of prayer.

Don't you need to repent? Get real. What is modernity but a vast list of things we need to be sorry about?

We repent the minute we can say of the One who created and meant the world to be decent and good, "Holy is Your Name." Not the corporation, the leisure world, the USA, the Indians, my physical fitness. Get real. We repent when we acknowledge that God loves and cares about the growth and development of every creature on earth, past, present, and future. That makes everyone special and salvation universal.

It reduces us to a proper sense of our own worth and a proper analysis of our prideful ways.

Jesus came to do one thing. He comes to you NOW in Cyberspace hoping that somehow, through this curious medium, you will understand that you are, in prospect, a temple of God.

Not the steeple down the street or the evangelist on the tube. You, friend. It stands or falls with each of us, with our taking responsibility for others, in practicing awareness of Abba's grace and power, in the knowing the indwelling Spirit, in daily exposure to what Jesus has to say.

Reject churches entirely -- never go on Sunday? That is not the point. YOU are the temple, so what is a church?

At best, it should be a place where you are resourced as the first witnesses were: A place where you receive the Spirit, share all things, follow the way of Jesus. Wherever this is done, there is a church!

When this is actually done, the church will also be you. And today's religious institutions will be turned inside out, producing responsible Christ people.

You are the temple. You are the pearl of great price. You are the field. And we together are pioneers in a church without boundaries.

That is what I assume the First Church of Cyberspace is all about.

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2015).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2017).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.
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