For years, when I read or heard that passage, I thought the tearing of the veil was an act of anger – that God was so rip-snorting mad at us for completely missing the point of who Jesus was and what He was doing – for misunderstanding, ignoring, teasing, torturing and murdering Him – that He tore the veil in the Temple to show His anger with us humanoids.
I thought of it in almost the same terms as that scene in Clash of the Titans (the real one with Laurence Olivier and Harry Hamlin, I mean), where the godess Thetis was so angry she toppled the head off the statue of herself in her own temple, just to berate her followers for something or other. Since our God ain’t no vain, petty, spiteful monster with superpowers, so I really should have thought better of Him.
Still, that perception persisted until sometime last year, when I heard a MercyMe tune for the dozenth time, and finally connected with the lyrics I’d heard so often.
“Separated, until the veil was torn. The moment that hope was born, and guilt was pardoned once and for all.” – All of Creation, from the album, The Generous Mr. Lovewell)
Y’see, (for those of you who know even less about First Century Jewish culture than me) the veil in the Great Temple separated the Holy of Holies – thought to be the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence – from the rest of the Temple where people could go. Humans, tainted by sin as we are, couldn’t go behind the veil – except the high priest, and him only once a year. Then, on Good Friday, after Jesus had breathed His last, God tore down that clumsy, ugly rag constructed of our sins. How awesome is that!
Speaking of awesome, my church rocked Easter Sunday today – and I don’t mind if this seems like bragging. The music was just about perfect (three-year-old Izzie let out a raucous cheer after our opening song, and we got a rare round of applause at the end), for starters. But that was just the icing on the way-too-numerous cupcakes.
The cake was the fact that the sermon was among Pastor Stephen’s best (check it out at http://www.holytrinitycalgary.org/downloads.htm). He didn’t mention the veil, but he did put up a long sheet of paper to act like a curtain between us and God. Then, when he played the role of Jesus and tore the paper, one of the volunteers started to crumple it.
“That’s right,” Stephen said. “Get that garbage outta here!” I was so proud of my pastor (and friend) and grateful to my Saviour (and Friend), I had to blink away tears.
What’s more, about 250 people showed up to see Stephen and the Holy Spirit at work – on a ‘normal’ Sunday, it’s around 125 or so. The worship was heartfelt and genuine; what a wonderful release after a long, tough Lent and an extremely emotional Good Friday.
One of the more prayerful members of our community sensed the beginning of a renewal at Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Friday, and I think she may be right. Our pre-service prayers felt deeper than usual, somehow, on both Friday and today, and there was a palpable feeling of joy in the worship area today. More hands were raised and more hands were clapped along with the music than I’ve seen in that place in a long time. “Sheesh, you’d think people were happy or something,” one of the musicians named Scott remarked with a twinkle in his eye.
I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do through us next, and I’m so grateful to be part of it.
“And all of creation sing with me now; lift up your voice and lay your burden down
And all of creation sing with me now; fill up the heavens, let His glory resound” (more MercyMe)
Peace be with you.