Everyone shuffles in to find their seat – some are excited and eager, others dragged along by peers. For some this may even be their first time at the show. The chatting and energy reach a sudden halt as the lights dim and the previews come on, informing you of other attractions and sources of entertainment. Finally, the previews end and you’ve arrived at the Feature Presentation. After some laughter, maybe even a few tears, the audience clears out of their seats and to the exits. Some speak of how they’ve seen that one before, and it remains just as good; others complain that they did not get their money’s worth.
Have I just described your last trip to the theaters, or your last visit to church? I’m not sure, but at least one can enjoy a Coke and some popcorn at the movies. Do that at most churches and people may look at you as if you’ve pissed in the baptistery.
The Church began as a community of believers who had to sacrifice everything to meet the needs of the others. Churches now often consist of empty buildings that sacrifice the needs of believers for the selfish ignorance of the masses. When did we lose our boldness to call out such blatant sin? I suppose believers of all cultures and eras have a rich history of idol worship. The wandering nation that left Egypt had the golden calf. Many kings of both the northern and southern kingdoms had their Asherah poles and high places. Those in Paul’s day had to contend with the Roman pantheon. And we have our “sanctuaries,” among a billion other things.
Like most idol worship, the intentions seem well enough. Believers want to set aside a distinct place for God, a place where they can feel as though they are closer, more intimate – a place of reverence. And like most idol worship, in spite of the good intentions, it demonstrates a true case of missing the point – and the point is that we often build idols of things God has already given us. We spend countless dollars, hours, and tears building a place to meet our innermost needs of “worship” when in reality we need not look any further than the mirror. “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” Paul asks. “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people'” (2 Cor 6:16). It seems as though we were too burdened with the responsibility of bearing the Spirit that we are far more content to hand over such power to an inanimate building. Maybe, it’s not that we reject the promises of God; perhaps we’ve never taken the time to actually shut up and listen to them.
If you’re not sure if your sanctuary is presently being worshipped, consider if you’ve heard anything like this:
Weddings are good, but we cannot allow you to eat in the sanctuary. There’s an unquestioned rule about not making messes in the sanctuary. Do not question the rule.
Sometimes our kids use the back of the sanctuary for games. Somehow they’ve gotten the idea that it could be a fun place. I saw them sometimes play, chase each other, throw things in the back of the sanctuary. I frown upon it as this is a holy place to worship God.