Sanctuary Light

On Sunday, our Biblical focus will be King Solomon’s building and dedicating the temple in Jerusalem. His father, King David, had wanted to build a temple, but through the prophet Nathan, God instructed him to wait.

Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?  I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.  Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word  saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” (2 Samuel 7:5-7)

The temple was a mixed blessing to Israel. Like many beautiful cathedrals it provided a place for the worship of God to flourish. Awe and wonder could be expressed in multiple ways within its walls. The book of Psalms captures some of the beauty of that magnificent structure.

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4

But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the danger of a fixed structure is that we compartmentalize God’s activity and restrict God’s presence to the “box on the hill.” A temple, church or cathedral should draw us into the wondrous presence of God yet also send us out renewed and refreshed to be God’s people in the world. The light of Christ is to shine both inside and outside the sanctuary.

I have been rereading Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion.  A Quaker, Kelly testifies to how the light of prayer is to be transformative wherever we are:

A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into it inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and it fitfulness and recreates it (p. 35).

Having worshipped in a simple Friend’s Meeting House, I know that it was not the magnificent space that inspired Kelly’s deep conviction, but rather the Light in the people who gathered to listen and be in the Light. The Light calls us together where we amplify its wavelength in community but then the Light directs us back into the world. Our meeting places are to be launch pads.

Lord Jesus, let your light shine in me.

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