Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/9/06
"God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy, and that is exactly what you are!" (I Cor. 3:17, Phillips).
Lenny and I were watching one of the History Channel's "Decoding the Past" series about the Holy Grail, and Lenny mused, "I wonder what the big deal about that is?" He changed the channel, because he wasn't interested, but he probably is not alone in asking that question. I continued to watch on the little TV in our bedroom because as an English Literature major in college, I found those tales of Arthur's knights fascinating and read several books on the subject. The program discussed the Arthurian legends of the Knights of the Round Table who dedicated themselves and their lives to finding this mythical Grail. Romantic tales of Camelot and Arthur's knights were very entertaining to my young mind, what with the vows of chivalry, bravery, dedication to God and king, not to mention rescuing damsels in distress, fighting fire breathing dragons and other less righteous knights than themselves. In these myths, the Holy Grail had somehow found its way to merry old England. It was holy, the story goes, because it was the very chalice from which Jesus drank on the occasion of the last supper, the final Passover feast before He was arrested, tortured, and nailed to the cross.
It turns out, that thanks to the religious superstition which abounded during the Dark Ages, many objects were venerated. Why? Anything which had been touched by the hand of God was deemed sacred and worthy of worship, including relics, like bits of wood which came from the "true cross" according to someone who knew for sure, or bits of bone which came from a martyred saint. In the case of the Grail, since it had disappeared, men considered it a "pearl of great price" and sought to possess it and the supernatural properties it supposedly contained.
The show offered several scenarios I hadn't considered before, such as the idea that the Grail was a secret icon of the feminine. Women were not valued other than for child bearing and doing jobs that men wouldn't do. The Catholic Church especially, feared and at the same time denied the sexuality of women, their spirituality and their equality to men. The Papacy had adopted the patriarchal system of the Old Testament, in which woman had nothing to do with either tending the physical objects of worship, or the practice of serving God in any way. Likewise, women had no voice or part in the unholy alliance between religion and pagan mythology practiced by a corrupt version of the church during the Middle Ages. In many cases, sadly, women have no voice in churches today. In the church I grew up in, women still to this day may not lead prayer or songs in the worship service, or serve communion, lest they usurp authority over a man.
During this dark time, the Grail was thought to possess miraculous properties which empowered whomever possessed it. According to one Arthurian legend, there was an empty seat at the round table, reserved for a knight of pure heart, who was a virgin and who had dedicated himself to serving God. Such a knight was Sir Galahad. According to this legend, when the knight presented himself at Camelot, his name had magically appeared on the back of the empty seat. When he sat down, the Grail appeared in all its beauty and glory for a few seconds, and then disappeared. Thus began the long quest to find and possess it.
Unlike Arthur's knights, however, the Knights Templar were real, and were said to be the guardians of the Holy Grail. When they became a threat to the papacy because of their power and wealth, they were tortured and killed, but their treasure disappeared and the Grail was never found, if they ever had it in the first place. Treasure seekers and people looking for some religious spice in their lives and/or money in their wallets still seek it today.
"What does this have to do with anything?" I can hear someone grumbling. To me, the answer is clear. People have always felt starved for the divine; they long to understand the mystical answers to the enigmas of life. Religion then and now, had become so ritualistic, so rule driven and punishment given that there was no mystery left in it. God was a rule enforcing tyrant, whose will was proclaimed by the clergy, and the laity could only suck it up and go on for they had no voice and no choice. They also had no answers to life's deep problems, like sin, sickness, or death. There was no power being dispensed by the clergy, only rules and threats about what would happen if the rules weren't kept.
There weren't even any Bibles available for people to read scripture, assuming you could find someone who could read. People turned to pagan fables, soothsayers, witchcraft, and so called holy relics which had allegedly been touched by the hand of God Himself to try to avail themselves of a little power. Did you ever wonder if God were to attend many church services today, would He be so bored He'd fall asleep? Does He really need to be reminded of what He said? Where is the power? Where are the healings, the life changing Word of life, the joints and sinews and heart of the Body of Christ?
Paul wrote to Timothy, his young protégé, about the times that were to come, the people who would characterize the religious world. His prophesy was manifested during the Dark Ages, and we see it still today: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them" (II Tim. 3:1-5). This perfectly describes the unholy alliance which occurs when people substitute doctrines of men for fellowship with God; religion, for Life in the Spirit.
In Jesus' day, the Pharisees were diligent and proud scholars of scripture. The Rabbis had debated, argued and reasoned out of their own minds how to keep the Law. Their traditions came to be known as the Mishna, or the Rabbinical conclusions about the Torah. Jesus came along and blew their traditions away. He picked corn and healed on the Sabbath, which drove them mad because He was defiling the Sabbath they said. They knew the scriptures and were proud of their knowledge, but Jesus rebuked them saying, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39-40).
The unholy alliance is represented by running after myths and cunningly devised fables rather than going to Christ, who alone has Life. The Holy Grail is a symbol, a metaphor for the longing that all men have to fill the empty place within that only God can fill. The quest to possess the Grail is as old as man's need for God. If men couldn't find the divine, they made one up; they fashioned idols with their own hands to worship. The Grail is an idol and those who seek it or other "holy relics" are in an unholy union between flesh and soul. They have chosen soul power (self effort) over Spirit power. The hand of God is not shortened, Isaiah declared: "When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst" (Isa. 50:2).
God can do today what He ever did, so why do people continue running to idols made with hands to men instead of to Him? I think it's because He still has not revealed Himself to many who seek Him. He is responsible for all things, and He "works all things after the counsel of HIS own will" (Eph. 1:11), so if a man or woman does not know Him, it is because God has hidden himself from that person for a season (Isa. 45:15). Knowing this helps us replace judgment of others with acceptance of His will, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13).
So you love someone who doesn't know God, and seemingly can't hear when you try to share Him with them? It hurts, doesn't it? We long to scoop him up in our arms and take him forcibly to our Father. Failing that, we want to slap him silly until he wakes up and smells the coffee. I had a conversation with just such a person this week, but afterward, I got the confirmation from Spirit that God loves him and takes care of him even as He does for the most devout. "Why don't you do something for him?" I fumed at God. There was no answer, just the sweet awareness that God loves him and in His time, will have His way with this man, no matter how much he resists. The hound of heaven never sleeps nor slumbers until He finds and loves into submission all who flee from Him.
We are praying for life and healing for three friends who are facing death due to a terminal illness. I have been beating on heaven's doors for most of my life about healing. I have come to realize that my own unholy alliance with soul power (self effort) is what's on the altar in regard to my prayers for healing, for it is His will, not mine which is done. I can seek, go on this crusade or that one, fight dragons, joust with other knights, try to purify my life, or whatever else religion or myth suggests I do, but it really is an unholy relationship with flesh. Self has no business praying for anything (James 4:3). Again, I lay it on the altar, and again He loves me into seeing how much He cares for each person I long to have healed. The ones He brings home to be with Him get the "perfect healing," as Lenny expresses it. However, I want them to take up their bed and walk, right here and right now, but nothing depends on me.
God has made an unconditional covenant with us in Christ, that nothing about kingdom living depends on us, but everything depends upon Him, for He is totally sovereign. When we refuse to accept that, or are tempted to think that we can do a better job than God, or perhaps it is our hidden fear that God doesn't care, doesn't see, and won't do anything anyway unless we nag Him, then we lose our peace of mind. We leave the place of rest and get back on the treadmill of works. In our thrashing about, we fail to feel the love, and if we don't feel it, then we can't pass it along to the very ones who need it the most.
Someone asked me recently, "If God is in control of everything, and knows what He is going to do about every request, then why pray?" That's an excellent question, and one I pondered for years. Don't give me the pat answer that we pray because we are commanded to pray. That doesn't answer the longings of my heart, and I confess that I went through a period of time about 15 years ago, I'd guess, that I said to God in a huff, "Fine. You are in charge of everything; You know what You're going to do; You don't want me to tell You what to do. So, I just won't pray." Of course, that only lasted until I got afraid for someone or about something and then I prayed again. One of our friends who is battling cancer gave me a wonderful answer to this question. He said that he feels the prayers of all of us who are interceding for him, and when he is walking through the dark in the midst of the storm, our prayers bring him into the very presence of God. What a wonderful thing; what a powerful answer to this question. He says that many times, it is the presence of God which has kept his head above the rising current which threatens to take him down for good.
We cannot go out as a consultant to God, and I answered the woman who asked me the question that prayer certainly isn't for God's benefit, since He doesn't need us to tell Him what to do. Prayer is surely for us. For like our friend who is believing for a healing, prayer brings us into the presence of our Father. It is relationship in action. Our Father loves us; we love Him; we love each other and want only the best for each other. We seek His face and rest in His grace and gain the victory over what we fear through His unconditional love.
I want to tell you where I think the true Holy Grail is hidden. Hollywood and the History Channel won't be convinced or impressed, but you will be when you go look in the Holy Spirit's mirror. The divine presence lives in you and in me. Paul explained this clearly: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (I Cor. 6:19-20). There are those today who are preaching that we don't identify with our body, our humanity, but only with our spirit. Paul clearly says that our "BODY is a temple of the Holy Spirit." To put it in mystical parlance, our body IS a Holy Grail for it contains Christ Himself. God did not intend for us to wonder where He is, or where the power really is. Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified" (John 7:38-39).
Father help us to give up our unholy alliances with self effort, soul power, and imaginings of the carnal mind. Reveal Yourself to us in ways that we can touch and taste and feel. Flow through this "chalice" You call Your son to the thirsty world waiting for the "real deal" to appear. The world has not yet seen nor felt the Love You have given in Your firstborn Son. Lord haste the day when all will know You, from the least to the greatest, when Your glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea and all flesh will see it together. In Christ, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 7/04/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/08/08.