1 Kings 8:10-13
As soon as the priests set the ark of the covenant in its place and leave the holy inner chamber, God reminds them why the Temple was built.
A cloud fills the sanctuary, so thick that the priests cannot lead worship. King Solomon tells them that the Lord dwells in such mysteries. When Moses received the Ten Commandments, a thick cloud surrounded the mountain. When the Israelites traveled during the exodus, the Lord led them with a pillar of a cloud by day. The cloud was not God, but God’s hidden presence moved in the cloud.
The day had been one long celebration: a parade across Jerusalem, sacrifices that couldn’t be numbered, and the ceremonial placement of the ark. The cloud fills the main sanctuary as if to remind the people that the Temple itself is not the purpose for such a grand occasion. God’s presence in the Temple is the reason they celebrate.
What happens in church buildings makes them sacred: baptisms and weddings, food pantries and after-school programs, youth group sleepovers and senior adult Bible studies. God’s presence working in the midst of faithful communities makes a building a church.
Buildings and institutions turn devoted movements into generational communities. They are necessary and vital because they embody lasting connections. Sometimes we spend so much time and money maintaining and protecting them that we forget that they are not the purpose of our gatherings. They only host the purpose. The building is only as important as the ministry it houses.
There are moments, at baptisms or funerals, in Christmas Eve candlelight or an Easter morning hymn, when you know that “surely the LORD is in this place”. That’s when a building becomes a church.
How does your church’s ministry define the importance of your building?
God, give me the awareness to help my church be an inviting host to your people and your presence. Amen.