Thursday, May 3, 2012

What is church?

When does church start and when does it end?  Does it start after the announcements begin, or after the 1st song, or after the opening prayer?  Does it end after the preacher sits down, after the invitational, or after the closing prayer (even if it's not really at the close)?

What if it's a Sunday Night instead of 10:30am?  What if we meet for a prayer breakfast on Saturday but we're in the auditorium, does that count?  And if it does indeed "count", where do we draw the line and what rules apply?  And what if on Sunday morning the preacher delivering the message is long winded (not at All like me...) and goes past 11:30, does the time override the previous discussed measuring sticks?

Hopefully, though not necessarily, you caught the tongue-in-cheek nature of that paragraph.  Although I am indeed being a bit facetious, the issue is very serious, and very important.

1.  Is there a building that's more sacred than another?  Does the one with pews and extra parking spaces hold greater spiritual significance than my house or yours (or a park bench, or a fishing boat, or a hiking trail, or a restaurant)?
2.  Then, within that building, is the room that's larger than the rest, has the pews and microphones and pulpit in it just another room or is it a sanctuary?

Well, with regards to number one, I resoundingly say no!  What makes a place sacred is not what it's made out of, where it is located, or What's in it, but who's in it.  As for number two, though I believe even those who refuse to call it a sanctuary often do, in fact, treat it as one, I find this notion to be preposterous.

What is a sanctuary?  A consecrated place - a holy place or even the "holy of holies", often used to describe a Hebrew Temple.  And what is a temple?  The place where God resides.  Does God reside in a church building if it's empty?  What about in that inner room with the pews and hymnals?  If no one is in there, is He just hanging out there waiting for us all to show back up again?  No?
Then it's not a temple; it's not a sanctuary.  Is it a temple on Sunday morning?
Yes (didn't see that one coming did you?) BUT only because we're there.  We are the temple, we are the sanctuary, our very bodies.  Therefore where ever we are, the presence of God is there as well - whether that be in the auditorium or the arboretum, the Wednesday night class or the waffle house, the church building or your house, or mine.  It also means that God Is in the church building anytime one of His is there, be that Sunday morning at 10:30, 11:59, or a Tues at 6:45am.

The church is so many things, it is a complex ever changing yet ever constant, living, breathing, divinely inspired entity.   Thinking of "church" in terms of 22 minutes once a week in 1 specific place is severely limiting the Creator of the universe to our huge detriment.

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