In those days, God delivered all these commandments: "I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the Earth below or in the waters beneath the Earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain."
"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you."
"You shall not kill."
"You shall not commit adultery."
"You shall not steal."
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not cover your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."(P) The word of the Lord.
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord of trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (R)
The percepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye. (R)
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. (R)
They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Jews demand "signs" and Greeks look for "wisdom", but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.(P) The word of the Lord.
Since the Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: "Zeal for your house consumes me." At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He himself understood it well.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
I read a story some time ago. One Sunday morning, a little boy attended Mass with his parents. Later, just before going to bed that evening, he knelt at his bedside and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there".
Lack of enthusiasm on the part of participants of worship or lack of reverence for the house of God or an irreligious act, perhaps, was understood in the boy's mind as an absence of God. He probably observed the people singing or praying or reading the Scriptures and yet were not worshipping the Lord with all their "heart, soul, mind and strength", Luke (10:27); Mark (12:30).
Worship is the highest form of prayer that brings us closer to God. When we go to church, we anticipate that God will be present and active in our times of worship and that He will hear and answer our prayers. We expect Him to bless and comfort us with His words. We want Him to guide us and remove worry from our lives and put us at peace. But we must remember when we worship, God must be satisfied.
About 1,500 years before Christ, in the Sinai Desert, God spoke to Moses and gave a set of guidelines by which the Israelites could live their lives in a way pleasing to God. These instructions cover both the religious and secular aspects of life - how to worship God and how to live in harmony with family, friends, and the rest of society. Then, God instructed Moses to erect a tent - later to be called the tent of meeting or Moses' Tabernacle - so that He could dwell amongst His people in the wilderness.
The Ark of the Covenant which contained the tablets with the Ten Commandments was the place of God's presence, and it was kept in the Most Holy compartment of the tabernacle-tent. The children of Israel carried it with them throughout their forty years of wilderness wanderings. After the conquest of Canaan, they kept it in the Tabernacle at Shiloh. As the story goes, David was anointed as King of Israel and thereafter he took it to Jerusalem, to be housed in a tent. Later, he wanted to build a permanent temple where God's people could worship but was forbidden from doing so because his hands were stained with blood.
God wanted not a man of war but a man of peace to construct the temple. And also, God made it clear to David that a House built with human hands could not contain the Creator of the universe. But He does want to live and rule in our midst; He wants to meet us and lead us in his ways; He wants His name to be known to His people, that we may call on His name in the times of need.
After David's death, his son Solomon built a magnificent temple to God on the hill of Zion in Jerusalem, 1 Kings (8:22). After the completion of the Temple, Solomon set it apart as sacred to the Lord, and said a prayer of dedication which is considered one of the longest prayers in the whole of Scripture. First, he prayed that God may hear his solemn prayer, and then he prayed that God might always see and hear the prayers of anyone who would pray in the temple. He also prayed that God may hear the cries of the foreigners in their midst, so that the name of God will be recognized in the whole world, 1 Kings (8:22-30); 2 Chronicles (6:1-21).
Added to all these prayers, he repeatedly pleaded that God may forgive the people not just for sins already committed, but for things that they would do in the future; for the times they would wrong others and be defeated by an enemy or would suffer famine or plague because of their sin, 2 Chronicles (6:21-30).
Since the time of Solomon, temples have been dedicated in many lands across the world, similar prayers of dedication have been offered by believers. However, and sadly, the Temples, built and dedicated as the earthly dwelling place of God among His people have also been looted, destroyed, defiled and desecrated by the arrogant pride, evil conduct and ungodly ways of human beings.
The Apostle John records one such event in his gospel, which we read today, John (2:13-25). As was His custom, Jesus once visited the Temple in Jerusalem at Passover. Entering the Temple, He saw money changers, along with merchants who were selling animals for sacrifice and was upset that the people had turned the House of God, as a place of business and sin. Clearly, this was not what the Temple was built for. Jesus regarded both merchants and customers guilty of desecrating the Temple and drove them all out of the temple. Some people call this the "cleansing of the Temple".
What is the message for us?
As we were constructing our new church, some people suggested selecting an auspicious day for the opening and blessing. Since I do not believe in such beliefs and practices, I said to them, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place". I did feel bad that I turned down the suggestion of truly good and devout people. But God always has a master plan in mind. He can turn anything around. He is full of surprises. Yes, our Lord has indeed arranged everything for this special day.
Guess what? First of all, just as the prophet Nehemiah and the Israelites overcame all obstacles, and faced the discouragement of his own followers during the rebuilding of the temple and walls of Jerusalem, almost five hundred years before Christ, we also have overcome real obstacles and challenges along the way through prayer and determination, particularly the difficulties associated with obtaining the necessary approvals and adequate financial resources, Nehemiah (4:10). God has either taken us around the obstacles or removed them. This beautiful little chapel has been made possible through the generosity of many friends like you, here in Hong Kong and from around the world. This chapel is a gift dedicated to God, to thousands of others who will come to worship and to yourselves personally. Today, I sincerely thank them and you for the gift.
Secondly, God has chosen for us today, to hold the blessing ceremony. Today is a very auspicious day. In Chinese tradition, any date with a double number, such as the Third day of the Third month (3/3), is considered highly auspicious. Besides, the odd number 3 is believed to be lucky as well because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for birth. But, when I chose the date for the blessing two weeks ago I did not pay attention to this. It was Divine guidance, because The Mariners' Club was closed on Tuesday, 27th February, and March 3rd was randomly chosen as the day to hold our weekend service. We trusted in the Lord with all our whole heart and, so, He has let things happen for us.
Thirdly, it is most appropriate on this day of dedication of our church that the gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent (Year B) which is today, contains the story that details Jesus' cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem.
Although this church is only temporary, it is nevertheless important that each of us will do our part to make it truly a House of God by showing respect and consideration to fellow worshippers and reverence to scriptures, religious images, pictures and services. Because you and I will come to this church, for about five years, to meditate, pray and rest; to worship our Lord while lifting our minds and hearts to Him, hearing His Word, and receiving His grace, forgiveness and love. In this church, we will also meet people from different nations, cultures, socioeconomic status and religious traditions. Therefore, the challenge for us is to make certain that we will walk in the ways of our Lord and make everyone feel welcomed in our church for God not only lives "in heaven" and "in churches" but also inside His church, in people's hearts, especially the hearts of those who worship, believe and obey Him.
Today, we gather as God's people, to dedicate and consecrate this church to Him. Henceforth, whatever the occasion that will bring you here, I pray just as Solomon prayed, that you may be met by the Lord, the healer of our body, mind and soul; that He may hear your cry for mercy and forgive your sins; that this quiet, calm and holy place may drive all your cares away; that these simple walls, sacred pictures, images, songs, music and murmured prayers may bring you healing, comfort and strength; and that your time with Him and His people in this dwelling place may make you joyful, peaceful and holy today and all the days of your life.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!