Treat brother Ass kindly or he may turn and bite his owner. He needs nourishing food and drink, plenty of exercise and an annual break from the daily grind for rest and recreation.
I feel sure you have stepped through the door of this church, or any gathering of Christians, for that matter, and immediately been touched by a sense of awe, of reverence. Whether folk are in prayer, a hymn is being sung, or even seeing those going about making preparation for the service, there is that unmistakable presence.
You think, God is here, and you are right. But if you were the first sides-man to arrive, you fetched the key, switched on the lights, and generally went about your business, that might not have struck you in quite the same way.
He is omnipresent, everywhere, of course, but perhaps no more so, if you are the first to arrive in church, than in the car-park. What is the difference?
This page was created on 29th October, 2019.
Or, if it is the end of the service, and folk are heading off home, or to the hall for a cup of tea and fellowship, and you are the last to leave, suddenly you have a sense that the presence of God that so touched you earlier, has dwindled.
But, as you enter the hall, or even the loo where a few others are enjoying a sweet pea, again there is that unmistakable presence. The ladies are pouring tea, a couple are deep in conversation, others are laughing, perhaps someone in distress is being consoled, and the glory of God is all around us. Why is this? Is he at the coffee tables, but not in the empty church building?
In the reading from 1 Corinthians 3 that we read earlier, the apostle Paul gives us a clue. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwells in you?
And again from Peter, the God who made the world and all things in it does not dwell in temples made with hands.
It is not these bricks and mortar, the beautiful soaring roof, the alter, the organ, or the painting of Jesus and Mary that makes this place holy. It is God dwelling in you and in me. And when we leave for tea in the hall, that intimate glory leaves this place, and goes with us wherever we are heading.
Thinking back to that glorious day when I first invited Christ into my life, from the moment I heard that unmistakable knock, and the voice of Jesus asking to be admitted, and I opened the door and invited him in, something dramatic and life-changing happened. God came in and supped with me, and I with him, and He never left; this body became the temple where he took up residence.
St Francis of Assisi called his body, Brother Ass. The donkey that bore the real him. As CS Lewis says, no one in his right senses can revere or hate a donkey. It is is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast, said he.
And I think many of us can identify with that. But you know what is interesting. Brother Ass, this infuriating body, does not bear just you and me; it carries Almighty God too.
The hands and feet, the heart and mind of Brother Ass, are the very limbs that do the work of God in the world.
Your hands, and mine do the work of God.
My real word to you this morning, is treat Brother Ass kindly. Do not beat him, make sure he is properly fed, and that he gets plenty of exercise; because he bears both you and Almighty God.
If we mistreat him and he becomes lame, or sick, or God forbid dies long before his time, then not only do we feel the pain, but so does the God who dwells in us. Jesus has just lost a pair of hands that should still be doing His work in the world.
Perhaps you say, well, it is better to go and be with God. But perhaps you leave behind unfinished business; work that God intended you to complete.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
If you do not take good care of yourself, of Brother Ass, love him and treat him kindly, you cannot fend for your neighbour either. He will have to look after you. What is more, donkeys have been known to turn around to bite their masters when they have been ill-treated.
And finally, a sombre note. The 1 Corinthians passage continues with a warning. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall the Lord destroy.
For that temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
I believe our lives would be quite different if we went about our day very conscious that our bodies are the temple of God. That He indwells us each moment of the day and the night, and that Brother Ass not only bears us, but he is also the temple of the Holy Spirit.
In what we eat and drink, in everything we do, what we think and dream about, let us not defile the temple of God. Take good care of Brother Ass, and he will look after you.
Taking proper holidays is important; stress and exhaustion can and will grind all of us down and make us prone to illness. Burnout waits in the wings for those do not treat Brother Ass kindly.
Treat brother Ass kindly, feeding him properly and making sure he gets plenty of exercise as he bears not only you but also the Almighty.
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