The God of Place and Time

As we approached the western face of the Temple Mount, the atmosphere struck me as an odd mixture of relaxed piety and harried activity.  Birds were flying gently overhead and roosting in the higher strata of rock while the rabbis recited prayer below.  Some of these rabbis loudly announced their prayers, milling about the crowd and making eye contact with everyone they came across, while others spoke softly into the stone.

Jesus would have seen this wall.  He would have passed it on the way to enter his “father’s house” (Luke 2:49), the house that God commanded his people to build in the hopes that he would dwell in their midst.  This wall was in front of me.


I walked up to the rocks which had lain there for two millennia and put my hands on them.

I’ve read the Old Testament my entire life, but until that moment, I didn’t realize what the ramifications of building the Temple were. To touch physical obedience to the command of God and realize that it is the very place where God dwelled… suddenly the story made sense to me.  Suddenly the love for the Temple and the priesthood and the Torah were tangible for me.  I understood, to some degree, the need to revere and protect the worship in that place.

I stood back from the wall and watched the growing number of rabbis huddled at its base. I began to wonder; what was my part in all of this?  Their motions and voices radiated love and significance.  I didn’t know their prayers or their rabbinic traditions or even understand the importance of that place until that moment- what was my connection to this holy plot of land that had seen countless worshipers throughout my life 7,000 miles away?

I looked up toward the birds and Jesus’ words went through my mind; “the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… but the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (John 4:21, 23).  And there it was; I was connected with the God of this place.  I was connected with the One who saw beyond the Temple, the One who envisioned a day when the worship of God would be loosed upon the world.

And we are the proof of his prophecy.

We connect with this God in all places and at all times, because this God is present in every place and at every time.

This God is present even when we forget that fact, even when we slip into our deistic tendencies which suggest to us that God has little to do with our world,  even when we live as if a portion of our lives have to do with God while some (or much?) of it simply doesn’t.  The truth is, enjoying “regular life” is worship, because our Creator has made this world and is in this world.  We need not enter temples or undergo purification rites to see, speak with, or praise God.  The two necessary things for becoming true worshippers are spirit and truth…for the God of the Temple is the God of the table as well as the tennis court and he “seeks such worshippers as these.”

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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