In keeping with last week’s post, I want to continue to examine the power of words. We know that church is not a building; church is God’s people. In the same vein, the building we go to is not God’s House. He doesn’t live there any more than anywhere else His people congregate.
The early Jews have referred to the Temple as the House. It was a representation of where God lived. In fact, God Himself presented that picture when He said He wanted to live among His people. He established the Tabernacle and then Temple as His dwelling in their midst. It became a symbol of His presence. This may be where we get some of our ideas about our church building. But, in fact, on Pentecost God changed all that. He moved His address into His people. Paul confirms this this idea when he reminds the Athenians that God does not live in temples made of human hands (Acts 17:24).
This notion lives on in expressions we use such as going to the House of the Lord or the House of God, as if that is the place we need to go to meet God. It hides the truth that God is with us always in all places.
When we make the call to “fill God’s House with God’s Word” as we recite scripture during worship, we risk reinforcing this idea that God lives here in this building. If misunderstood, it allows the idea to creep in of a divided life – what I do in here, in God’s presence, is different than the way I live “out there.” There is a presumption that I act differently while in God’s building than what I would at home or in a store.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t create an atmosphere of respect so that we don’t distract or even stumble our neighbor, but it is the people who have joined us there that we need to be sensitive to – not the building itself. Maybe I find this particular phrase difficult because as a teacher it is my calling to literally fill God’s house with God’s Word. It is His people that I yearn to have filled to overflowing with understanding and the power of His Word, not an echo in a building.
God has granted many church bodies the resources for wonderful buildings to be used as a tool in ministry. We can create areas that promote worship, quiet, reflection, celebration – all kinds of meaning. But let’s be careful our words don’t suggest that I need to go there to meet God. Our loving Father is waiting to meet us anywhere we turn our heart and ear to Him.
What do you call that place you go to celebrate with other believers?
However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. Acts 7:48