At Metro airport last night, the traffic was often at a standstill entering the McNamara Terminal as demonstrators’ signs, peaceful smiles, and friendly waves and photos were exchanged between many. To say that the public’s response to the latest executive order was a strong one would be putting it mildly. People naturally concerned about missing flights walked with their luggage up the narrow sidewalks toward their gates. But while the traffic stood still, Flow was everywhere.
By Flow, I mean evidence of the Holy at work in our midst. Evidence that hearts were being stirred, changed, becoming more open to the very real suffering of God in the world, who suffers with the oppressed of any kind. Flow is always a good thing, though often messy, because it inevitably brings transformation, or conversion to a new way of seeing Reality.
One of the ways I seek transformation is by reading the Bible carefully, and this week’s self-assigned reading in my faith asks me to take seriously the idea of seeking the Temple of the Lord, even as my sacred text also reminds me that each of us is a mini-temple of God. And being a person who processes the world best through images and symbols, the easiest way for me to think of this truth is by looking at the Chinese yin-yang.
While I am not a scholar of Taoism, this symbol works well for me this first week of Chinese New Year 2017 perhaps because of my spouse’s national origins from Hong Kong. Or maybe because his family immigrated to this country in 1974, when he was 7-years-old, during a time of intense hatred of Asians after the Korean and Vietnam wars— Seto family immigrants who arrived at Metro airport from another era of immigration reform.
Whatever the reason may be, I like the yin-yang image of different but complementary elements, interdependent and necessary to the well-being and wholeness of the other. The black and white dots point out that there are even elements of each found in the other, and this is a helpful resource for me to think about 1) how we find God, i.e. enter the Temple of the Lord, and 2) how we open ourselves as mini-temples to God to receive meaning, guidance, and purpose for our human lives.
In Jeremiah 22:2-3, this prophet of God is asked to go down from the Temple of the Lord to the palace and speak to those who hold power and privilege at the palace. This is what Jeremiah says:
“Listen to the Lord’s word, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your attendants, and all those who go through these gates. The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right, rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place.”
Finding God is necessary to our well-being as much as we are critical to God’s well-being. Our relationship with the divine is one of interdependent, interpenetrating, and mutual love. And we often find God by “practicing the presence of people,” to quote the title of the fabulous book by Mike Mason. Because each person on this planet is a mini-temple—each person, regardless of their religion or lack there of, is made in the image of God.
We allow ourselves to be made a bit more into the likeness of God (some people would say we “become more like Jesus”) each time we seek to find the Holy in the other, the different, the misunderstood, the broken, the frustrated, the frustrating, the arrogant, the indifferent, the intolerant. For there is some of ALL these elements in each of us. Seeing it, accepting it as a part of Reality, and embracing the messiness of being transformed by it, is what we are invited to do as human beings in the yin-yang dance of relationship with God.
In a roundabout way, another text—Psalm 24—describes the Temple of God as the Earth—and all those who live in the Earth. In other words, everything and everyone is sacred. (And religion at its best is what we do to live out that truth). Then the psalmist rhetorically asks, who will experience the world and themselves as temple, as places of sacredness? “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false…” Psalm 24: 4
Put another way, the prophet Jeremiah’s word for us today might be: Open your hands and heart to the Lord, enter the FLOW of the divine dance by attending to the needs of the oppressed around you in the world today. Look for truth in the Holy Temple of the Lord, which is as near to you as your very next breath.