They made the rosette of the holy diadem of pure gold, and wrote on it an inscription, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the Lord.”
Exodus 39:30 (NRSVCE)
As I’ve mentioned many times in these posts, I have been part of many different churches along my spiritual journey. I’ve been part of small rural churches, various types and sizes of denominational churches, and suburban mega-churches. It’s been fascinating to have a plethora of experiences.
I recall being part a very large church who was in building mode. There was a giant fundraising campaign, and I remember being invited to a big dinner where the plans for the building were announced. The plans were impressive to say the least. It would be the largest church in that state with state-of-the art everything inside. One might even say that it was opulent.
I remember speaking with one of the staff members and questioning the grandiosity of plans and whether it was necessary. He pointed me to these past few chapters of Exodus and the design of the Tabernacle with its gold diadem, the priestly breastplate of precious gems, the tent made of expensively dyed cloth, and the ark made of wood overlaid with gold leaf. His point was that God appreciates and desires his temple be richly fashioned.
But, Jesus both lived and taught a very different way:
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Luke 9:58 (NIV)
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:18-20 (NIV)
Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I believe that having a building to meet in is a good thing. I also believe that people across history have created beautiful works of architecture and artistry in a sincere attempt to honor and glorify God. At the same time, I can’t escape the fact that Jesus never once told His followers to build a building, temple, chapel, sanctuary, cathedral, or basilica. The only time Jesus mentioned building a church He was speaking metaphorically about Peter’s faith being the rock that would be the church’s foundation; Not bricks-and-mortar but flesh-and-blood.
In retrospect, I learned a huge lesson as I observed a pastor and staff driven by an edifice complex that they desperately tried to justify, an edifice they desperately made happen, and a church that eventually imploded from within. Last I knew, the edifice has sat empty and in disrepair for many years.
I keep coming back to the understanding of context as I near the end of this journey through Exodus. I’ve found a lot of spiritual lessons in the 39 chapters of Exodus, but much of the lessons come from understanding what God was doing with Moses and Hebrews in the context of their time and place in history. Like the good religious Hebrew, Paul, the best lessons are in how humanity has grown and matured; How God has matured the relationship and led to a much deeper understanding of the mystery. Exodus has reminded me just how dramatically Jesus changed things and how humanity, myself included, keeps getting stuck and falling back into our ancient patterns of religious thought. Just like that pastor justifying a building that no one needed.
I believe that this spiritual journey has a destination, and as I make progress on Life’s road I’m also supposed to also be progressing in my spiritual maturity and my relationship with God. As Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Colossae: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” … the Son of Man with no place to lay His head. Jesus, who taught His followers to build people instead of buildings.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.
One thought on “Building People”
8-10 Breastpiece. They made a Breastpiece designed like the Ephod from gold, blue, purple, and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen. Doubled, the Breastpiece was nine inches square. They mounted four rows of precious gemstones on it.
First row: carnelian, topaz, emerald.
11 Second row: ruby, sapphire, crystal.
12 Third row: jacinth, agate, amethyst.
13-14 Fourth row: beryl, onyx, jasper.
The stones were mounted in a gold filigree. The twelve stones corresponded to the names of the sons of Israel, twelve names engraved as on a seal, one for each of the twelve tribes.
When I was a youngster, my parents used a series of books for devotions at dinner time. They were old then..old language, but they had great pictures and were a great way to learn about the Bible. As I was reading this part of the chapter, I immediately remembered a picture from those books of the breastplate. Brightly colored gems…in four rows…hanging from a man’s chest. I used to stare at that picture. I’m not sure what the fascination was, but the connection to the 12 tribes and the gems, they were eye catching. I’m thankful that my mom and dad took the time to read these books to us. It was so meaningful to me that I went out on ebay and bought our family a set to read through at dinner time as well. If it was old when I was a kid….they were REALLY old for my kids. We trudged through them, though, old language and all. I don’t know if they had the same impact on my kids as they did on me, but I am grateful for the upbringing of faith and the legacy of generations prior, helping pave the way for me as a Jesus following young parent.