Sacred Space

Sacred Space (CaD 1 Ki 6) Wayfarer

In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.
1 Kings 6:7 (NIV)

This past week, Wendy and I were tickled as we watched a young girl in our weekly gathering of Jesus’ followers. She was laying on the floor in the front of the gathering coloring in her coloring book, kicking her legs up and down as she hummed while the morning message. When I later told her mother that Wendy and I had enjoyed watching her daughter she commented, “Only [in our gathering] could that be acceptable.”

What she was poking at was the tradition of reverence and sacredness that people have traditionally had around church buildings, sanctuaries, and places of worship. I was raised in such a tradition. When entering the church, you were to be quiet, dignified, and respectful. Children were never supposed to run. The altar area in the sanctuary was a forbidden space. Wear your best clothes, sit up straight in the pew, behave, be quiet, be reverent. You’re in a sacred space!

After becoming a follower of Jesus and reading Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the apostles for myself, I was amazed by the realization that almost everything about my experiences of church was nowhere to be found in either the teachings or examples of Jesus and His early followers. In fact, Jesus on at least two occasions speaks about the religious tradition of worshipping God at a temple being torn down and replaced. He was dismissive of His disciples’ awe and wonder at the Temple ( the same Temple we read about being built in today’s chapter) and tells them that it will ultimately be razed to rubble. In another episode, a woman from Samaria questions Jesus about one of the major differences between the Jews, whose worship was centered around the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans, whose worship was centered at Mount Gerizim. Jesus responds, “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Jesus never prescribed church buildings, cathedrals, basilicas, sanctuaries, altars, or sacred spaces. The teaching of Jesus is that when I as a follower am indwelt by the Holy Spirit then I become the Temple of God. Sacred space, therefore, is wherever I happen to be. I bring the sacred with me because God’s Spirit is in me. The Jesus movement in the first century exploded as followers and disciples met anywhere and everywhere in homes, outdoors, and in public places.

We human beings, however, love our religious traditions. I found it interesting in today’s chapter that even at the building of the Temple the work area was to remain silent in reverence. It reminded me of the plethora of rules I was taught as a child about the church building being a sacred space.

Which reminded me of our sweet little girl Wendy and I watched in worship this past Sunday. Our local gathering has taken a different stance than the historic traditions about the place of worship being sacred and thus requiring silence, reverence, and rules like the removal of headwear. In our gatherings, children are allowed to be children. For many years, we had a weekly gaggle of little girls who would literally apply Psalm 149’s call to praise God with dancing as they would jump and spin and improvise dances in the corner of the room during songs. We have people who quite literally exercise the freedom to worship God with clapping, shouting, and raising hands as prescribed in the book of Psalms and elsewhere. On a few occasions, we’ve had an individual who expresses praise by applying Psalm 20’s encouragement to “lift up banners in the name of our God” and would quite literally do a flag routine like you’d see with a marching band. And, sometimes we are silent and reverent, not because of the room or the building but because silence is a form of both individual and corporate worship, too.

It is in the quiet where I find myself each morning as I read and ponder, and write each one of these chapter-a-day posts. My home office becomes sacred space, not because of anything having to do with the room, but because of everything having to do with God’s Spirit in me and communing with me in spirit, heart, and mind.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

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