Friday, November 16, 2007

A Conception of Refuge

From the Concise Oxford Dictionary (What else??!?)
10th Edition, Online:

• n. (pl. sanctuaries)
1 a place of refuge or safety. > immunity from arrest.
2 a nature reserve. > a place where injured or unwanted animals are cared for.
3 a holy place. > the innermost recess or holiest part of a temple. > the part of the chancel of a church containing the high altar.
– ORIGIN ME (orig. ‘a sacred place where a fugitive was immune from arrest’): from OFr. sanctuaire, from L. sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy’.

Last week, a small group of us were spending some time in the early morning, praying for our church. We’ve established a focus to “impact… families with the transforming love of Jesus Christ,” and were seeking God’s will and mind in what that means, and perhaps how we are to go about same. It was a truly sweet time, and God led us individually and collectively to realize that a big part of this task has to do with extending ourselves outside of our campus, reaching into the neighborhoods surrounding… showing and sharing His love of people. This was heartening, as He was not talking about programs, schedules, or plans, but about attitudes, hearts, and sharing.

So in the middle of all this, I asked, “God, if we’re supposed to be extending beyond our campus, beyond our property, beyond our grounds, then what’s the purpose of gathering here in your sanctuary? What are we supposed to do here, in church?”

Have you ever been praying and had God chuckle in response? No, really, God chuckled and said, “Kit… my sanctuary is not a building, it’s in my people.”

Oohhh! God, I see! (Albeit through a glass darkly!) You say in your word that our bodies (and our hearts) are your temple… and the sanctuary is the holiest part of the temple; we carry your sanctuary with us! So then, I thought, sanctuary is really a state of being, a state of mind… “Yes,” said God, “that is why the Christian martyrs in the Roman coliseum, were able to sing, while being torn apart by lions.” They were in sanctuary… the holiest part of the temple; a place of refuge and safety. And sanctuary is in the mind of the occupant… the one who is safe… the one who is protected; he or she can be in sanctuary regardless of the environment or the surrounding circumstances… safe in the Father’s arms.

In musing further, I put this in the context of my last post. What about that place of ‘unconditional acceptance,’ of ‘unconditional love,’ and universal positive accord… not a place where people ignore our faults, but where people appreciate our strengths (which are used to build one-another), and where people stand by one another as they grow through their faults and weaknesses, depending entirely on the strength of the Lord… is that not sanctuary?

As he quotes someone much wiser, I'm increasingly convinced: Dallas Willard is right… “The Kingdom of Heaven IS at hand.”

"When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny." -Psalm 73:16-17


Toph said...

Excellent dictionary choice, my friend.

Don't you just love it when God reveals simple things? I'm so thankful I have a God to correct me in my cluelessness.

Stephanie said...

I really do love my neighbors. I love people in general. My kids have stopped asking "Do you know that person?" when I stop and say hello. They now assume I don't. I think God is all about community. He wants us to be spending time together strengthening the sanctuary.

Chris said...

where have you gone?