I miss “church” (i.e. Sunday service, wonderful worship and powerful prayers). When this stupid pandemic popped up and our government officials decided that we need to be isolated from everyone else in order to slow the spread of the disease, I was pretty sad about the prospect of missing “church”. I, however, quickly remembered that old line – “Church is not a building”. For most Christians, Church is not only Sunday Service, but, it’s the people, the relationships, the serving and the time set apart to worship, study and be with the Lord.
Now, a month and a half later, I am re-aligning my thinking. “Church is not just the building, but it is about the building as well.”
In my morning Bible Study, I am in Leviticus – a tough book of rules and regulations for the early Hebrews. As usual, I have my Moody Bible Commentary (ebook edition) at the ready so that I can get some context to what I am reading. While looking through the introduction to Leviticus, I came across the commentary on the contribution Leviticus plays for us as 2020 Christians. Specifically, “Why should we even think about reading it?” The Author, John Jelinek, gives 5 reasons why we should not just read Leviticus, but study it. Now, I am not signing up for that task just yet, but something he said in his first point really struck me.
“sacred space is to be maintained in order to accommodate the distance sin creates between men and God” and, “the tabernacle was the observable display of the Lord among His people.”1
So, while it is true that the “Church is not the building”, it is, in fact, inclusive of the building, but the building is not just a building either, it is something more. First, it is the sacred space that the members of each specific Church body create to come together and, on bended knee, worship the Lord their God. Second, it is a very obvious display of the Lord among His people – the symbol that even little children can look at and recognize. The books of Exodus and Leviticus make this point very clear – the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting was not just another tent – it was a sacred space where God dwelled and a symbol of God’s covenant with the Hebrews.
38 The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.
– Exodus 40:38
We absolutely can not diminish these really important facts – we need that agreed to sacred space and that display of the Lord, whether it’s a grand cathedral, a country church or a local elementary school cafeteria.
I have really enjoyed the time with our family, gathering together each Sunday morning on our couch, to worship. The churches around the world have done a great job of not just adapting to this pandemic to maintain their membership, but, in many cases, to grow their congregation. Many people are coming to Jesus, more people are contributing over what they normally do and a lot of people are finding very creative ways to serve others. It has been awesome, because it has, in some cases, brought more of that sacredness into our homes where it is desperately needed.
This being the case, though, I am very ready to get back to that building. I can’t wait for that first worship service that brings me to tears because of the special combination of music, atmosphere and Holy Spirit. I can’t wait for the next spectacular sermon and powerful prayer, the next baptism Sunday and the next shared communion. I think I will drive by the building…
1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
– Psalm 95:1-2
1 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
– Psalm 150:1-6
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
– Leviticus 9:23-24
1 Excerpt From: John Jelinek (Michael Rydelnik & Michael Vanlaningham editors) “The Moody Bible Commentary.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-moody-bible-commentary/id674887008
“First, sin excludes man from nearness to God (sacred space is to be maintained in order to accommodate the distance sin creates between men and God). Leviticus thus assists in rounding out the revelation of the nature of God that He personally revealed to the patriarchs in Genesis,”