Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill? Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right. - Psalm 15:1-2
A new Mormon temple recently opened up in my neck of the woods. Like many curious locals, I signed up for a tour.
It was a grand building, totally unlike the religious buildings I frequent. There were different rooms for different purposes: baptism, weddings, teaching, prayer and so on. Because the temple had not yet been dedicated, we were allowed to enter the celestial room, the holy of holies of Mormon temples. After the temple was dedicated, the entire structure was closed to everyone except Mormons in good standing.
That last part stuck in the craw of my liberal "I'm so inclusive" orthodoxy. Haven't all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? How can one imperfect sinner have the authority to pronounce another imperfect sinner as "blameless" and fit to enter the holy place while keeping others out?
Then I remembered Psalm 15. If Mormons have the gumption to take this verse seriously by setting guidelines for righteous living, who am I to get my UCC feathers ruffled? Don't we have our own standards for righteousness (i.e. LGBTQ affirming, eco-advocating, justice-marching, feminist-supporting, bully-opposing) and view those who disagree as deficient?
In any event, there is something to be said for repentance, cleaning up your act and getting right with God before presuming to have an audience with the Almighty. That's why worship often starts with confession. That's why Jesus taught us to pray…
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are Yours. Amen
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.