|Re-purposed church building (Photo: V. Nesdoly)|
TO CHEW ON: "He has done violence to His tabernacle,
As if it were a garden;
He has destroyed His place of assembly:
The Lord has caused the appointed feasts and Sabbaths
to be forgotten in Zion.
In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest.
The Lord has spurned His altar.
He has bandoned His sanctuary;
He has given up the walls of her palaces
Into the hands of the enemy.
They have made a noise in the house of the LORD
As on the day of a set feast." Lamentations 2:6,7
Seeing buildings that were once obviously houses of worship used for secular purposes always gives me a twinge. I wonder what happened? Did the congregation move to a different building? Are the people that formerly worshiped there still in existence as a body? Or did they fight, split, lose interest, die off, disburse?
Perhaps my feelings for church buildings are inappropriate. For in our focus verses today, it would seem that God Himself condoned not just the re-purposing but the very desecration of the temple, its celebrations, indeed all things to do with the outward show of worshiping God.
Why did He do this? One of the reasons was probably to drive home the fact that there is something even more important than outward forms of worship. That thing is obedience - 1 Samuel 15:22.
This brings me to the question, do I take comfort from the fact that I'm okay because I'm adhering to the expected forms and rituals of my time? Do I, for example, feel bad when I miss my daily devotions because of guilt over not having done a required thing? Or do I feel bad because I miss the closeness of being with Jesus?
The symbolism of a desecrated church is not lost on its members. But such an act can never harm the real church which is people, in-dwelt and living under the direction of the Holy Spirit in community with each other. In fact, each one of us is God's sanctuary - 1 Corinthians 6:19,20
And so any place can be sacred. Any room in your home, your garden, or your car can become a holy place because God meets you there.
PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where I am trusting in religious forms as a way of pleasing and getting points with You. Help me to understand, at a heart level, the difference between ritual and obedience. Amen.
MORE: Your church and its building
Most churches have dedication services when they begin meeting in a new building or move into an existing venue. These dedication services may include prayers that bind all evil spirits or influences which formerly operated in the physical space and invite the Holy Spirit to have free reign there.
In one church I attended, when we moved out of our old building we held a decommissioning service to lift the blessing we had invoked when we moved in. Such services are often a time of thanksgiving, sharing memories, and a declaration to the church and the secular community that the physical site and building is no longer a place of worship.
Is there a biblical precedent for decommissioning services (one doesn't come to my mind)? What are your thoughts and experiences?
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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