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7.09.2005    |    Sacred space?
Ever been in a great cathedral? They're hard to avoid, if you travel in Europe. No, not that they've got men outside who drag you inside, kicking and screaming against your will. Rather, if you are a Christian, any denomination, you've got a natural curiosity about these monstrosities and their role in the history of the church.

I write "monstrosities" simply because so many of the cathedrals in Europe are so large, so ornate, as to not glorify God but rather the prideful builders. In other words, to my mind, they subtract, rather than add to our worship. And, unfortunately, the confusion of a huge, ornate, temple as a monument to God isn't limited to Europe.

A story in today's Washington Post brings up what I call the edifice complex that so many faiths become ensared in. The story is about the creation of a $4.5 million Syrian Orthodox church, with hand-worked "pale golden marble" quarried in, yep, from Syria, and shipped all the way here to America. The church required the work of many artisans, and they've been at it for four years. From the Post:
The craftsmen were finishing the installation of the new domed altar and arching stone iconostas, an elaborate partition that holds the baptismal font and brilliant painted icons, images of Christ and the saints.

Shalhoub, a Syrian and Orthodox Christian who learned reverence for the ancient stone and for Bible stories from his father and grandfather, stepped back and surveyed the work with pride. (emphasis added)
This "reverence for the ancient stone" says it all. Not to pick on the Syrian church; just that it is emblemmatic of what so many of us do. We revere things of this world, and somehow don't feel complete in our worship until we have a big, ornate "sacred space" in which to pray.

I admire beautiful things as much as the next man. I am respectful of other worship traditions -- to the point where they cross the line to idolotry, the worship of something that is less than God. The Syrians in Potomac, Maryland (where this "sacred space" is located) may have forgotten the Gospel message of Jesus: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

That is all it takes. It doesn't require a $4.5 million church. It doesn't require "pale golden marble." It doesn't require glittering idols called icons. He, our Lord, may be worshiped by two homeless men beneath a bridge. In a park. In someone's living room. In a Baptist meeting house. And, of course, in a big, ornate cathedral or icon-packed church. Although perhaps the glitter in the latter might hinder our seeing Him...

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.