Is the Holy Land Really Holy?

Is it okay to watch a movie in your church sanctuary? What about the Holy Land, is it really holy? These are but two of the practical questions I sprung on my Sunday school class recently. How would you answer?

Your answer would betray your allegiance to your concept of sacred space.  Do you believe there are places on the

Sacred Space Tremper Longman

Book by Tremper Longman on Sacred Space

earth which God particularly esteems?  Recently, I posted on a chapel dilemma facing Muslims in Denver.  The question of sacred space came up in that post because Muslims were separating into a different room from Christians, presumably for the sake of holiness.  Do we Christians recognize any place on earth as more holy than any other place?  Or, put more bluntly, is the sanctuary the actual house of God?

To answer these questions, simply turn to John 4, the story in which Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman at the well. You might remember the important answer Jesus gives her concerning worship: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

The significance of his answer is seen in the context of the woman’s question. She had asked Jesus about the proper place of worship: Was the proper place of worship in Jerusalem or on Mt. Gerizim? Sacred space was the issue she addressed.  Jesus’s answer was that the Father demanded sacred people, people set apart by the Spirit through the truth of the gospel.

The question of sacred space had taken a decidedly different turn upon the arrival of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was called Immanuel (which means God with us). Jesus was God coming to the earth to dwell among us (John 1:14).  The presence of God was not limited to any place, but, rather, was enshrined in this one man from heaven, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, those longing to be in the presence of God need not make a trip to Jerusalem to the temple.  All they need is to be with Jesus.  Wherever Jesus lives, there is the unique presence of God on the earth.

So, sacred space is anywhere and everywhere the sacred people (saints) happen to be.  The temple of Christ’s body is actually the church (1 Corinthians 6).  He tore down the old temple and raised it up three days later. Christ now dwells in the presence of His people. Thus—because Christ is present with His people—His people make up a new and living temple, one not made by human hands. Each person who is in Christ is a living stone in the temple of God.  Sacred space is anywhere and everywhere you find the church.

Therefore, the building in which Christians gather is not necessarily any more or any less sacred than the building which houses the local coffeehouse. Not coincidentally, many churches meet in coffeehouses and bookstores, clothing shops and even restaurants and bars.  The place is not sacred unless the people are sacred (filled with the Spirit and the truth).  If the people are sacred, then the place will be, too, so long as the people are gathered there in faith.

In other words, God doesn’t meet with His people in the sanctuary because the sanctuary is His house.  God meets with His people in the sanctuary because that happens to be the place where his saints have gathered.

Movies can be watched by the church for the glory of God in the sanctuary, but the concept of a Holy Land is obsolete in Christ whose kingdom extends over all the earth (Matthew 28).

I am curious as to whether this makes sense to you? It can be a little confusing. So, as always, your thoughts are appreciated.

Swimming in Paradise Lost

Oh, what a day we had!  My sister and I were both just kids, less than 10 years old.  But we knew how to have fun in a swimming pool.  And the swimming pool we were in was fantastic.  It was a big, in-ground pool, probably 20’ x 40’ with a nice concrete walk all the way around it.  There was a giant, blue squiggly slide on one side, a diving board on another.  The water was as clear as the cleanest glass in the cupboard.  And the water felt as cool as my mother’s iced tea.

It was a great day of splashing, swimming, floating, sliding, and diving.  The only other person in the pool was our friend Tracy.  In fact, the pool belonged to Tracy’s aunt.  Tracy and her family were taking care of it while the aunt was away.  She invited us to come along with them on this particularly sunny day.  It was paradise, until we returned home.

Paradise was quickly lost upon our arriving home.  We didn’t get past the sidewalk before the switch wrapped its talons violently across the back of our calves, leaving an undecipherable Morris-code message of dot-dot-dashes written in the slightly raised red lines.  To say my mother was angry would have been an understatement along the lines of “BP spilled a little oil.”  My mother was furious.

While we were soaking up the son over on Frusha Drive, my mother (across town) was marching up and down Bon Ami Street calling our names, wondering where we might be.  To this day, I still maintain that the ordeal occurred from miscommunication rather than disobedience, but my mother (the bearer of the switch) still thinks otherwise.  The switch got the final word.

My sister sent me to ask my mother’s permission for us to go across town swimming, thinking that my mother would likely be a little softer toward me—her baby boy.  Dutifully, I went.  I heard my mother respond to my request for permission to go swimming with a simple, “un-huh,” in which the “n” is not really pronounced; it’s simply there in a kind of “n”-sounding way.  The reason that is so important in this case is that it sounds remarkably similar to its negative counterpart in the Southern dialect, which is, “unt-uh.”  The first colloquialism is affirmative: It means, “Sure, kids, go swimming all day and have a great time.”  The second is negative (and in this case most emphatically so): It means, “Absolutely not! Are you crazy? Of course you cannot go across town swimming at another person’s home, whom I don’t even know.”  One little sound makes an awful lot of difference to a kid’s bottom.

I share the story because of its impact on my sister.  She was innocent in the matter.  Her spanking was the direct result of my telling her it was OK for us to go.  She received a defective word from me; yet she still suffered for it as much as I did.  Her spanking is a testimony to the reality that innocents will suffer because of sin.  My mistake caused her to suffer.

(to be continued)

Wisdom vs. Slavery

I had not thought of making wisdom and slavery opposites before reading Genesis 2 today, but these 2 ideas are opposites.  The Lord speaks to the Man and gives him the command to eat freely of everything in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Obviously, for this command to make sense, the Man already had some head knowledge of both good and evil.  What he did not have is experiential knowledge of evil.

If Man had stayed forever away from the experiential knowledge of evil, he would have grown in wisdom and knowledge before the Lord and enjoyed great harmony in the Garden.  Wisdom means applying godly knowledge to life, thereby learning more about God and life.

Yet, we know that the Man did not follow the course of growing in wisdom; instead, he took the forbidden fruit and fell into the experiential knowledge of good and evil.  This fall was not innocent; it brought guilt and judgment.  Indeed, it brought death.  So, the picture is clear from Genesis 2 that the way of obedience is the way of wisdom, but the way of disobedience is the way of being trapped into death.  The freedom of life and the slavery of death are always on the line in the matter of obedience.