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A Living Sanctuary

May 13, 2017

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A few weeks ago we took the latest round of house guests hiking in Rocky. We hiked from Bear Lake to Dream Lake and on to Nymph Lake. Every time we hike in Rocky I feel a profound sense of awe as though I am in the midst of a living sanctuary. The profound sense of God’s creative energy is palpable. In 1 Peter 2:5 we read the following: “…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…” Not only is Rocky such a sanctuary, we too are called to be the same for others.

I have been pondering the passage from 1 Peter 2:5 this week in the midst of the incredibly busy week that is my second week of the month. In addition to lots of meetings (I would rather have the majority of our committee meetings in one week than spread throughout the month, frankly), there was a lot of additional ministry on the plate for me. But I would rather have a full plate of the Lord’s work, than be bored to tears sitting in an office somewhere!

Anyway, by the end of the week we were actually able to take a hike in Rocky and explore a place we had never been before (Upper Beaver Meadows) where we saw this fellow strutting about and gobbling!

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I am always amazed and profoundly thankful when we get moments like this to simply be still in the presence of God’s creation and feel the Spirit moving in our midst.

As I pondered Peter’s commentary about Christ being the stone that the builder rejected, it hit me. Even though Peter was talking about Jesus being transformed into the cornerstone of the new movement (it would become a church later on), his words struck me as a reminder to the church in the twenty-first century. In the first century, the growing group known as The Way (they were first called The Way, and only much later would they be called Christians), was figuring out how they were being called to live out their faith. The persecutions they faced were VERY real (like the Christian community in Syria and other places where ISIS and other fanatics are slaughtering them). It is something that we in the United States have no clue about unless you have been a missionary in such a place as that.

Today, in the twenty-first century developed world church, people often like to say that they are persecuted. Frankly, that is so far from the truth it is almost laughable. We are free to worship without fear. We are free to pray without fear. What I have seen far too often in the church today is a mass straying from the very cornerstone of our faith. What is the cornerstone of our faith? Well, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God (right before he said, “Heck no, Lord, you can’t die!” and was promptly chastised by Jesus in that infamous, “Get behind me, Satan!”), that was what would become the cornerstone of the new movement. Jesus was the one who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets with his radical summarizing of the Law and Prophets into the following: Love God with all you are and have… love your neighbor as yourself… Yep, that was the cornerstone that Jesus was replacing on the physical and spiritual Temple of Judaism. And that was the cornerstone which Peter proclaimed.

Walls can be walls built on hatred and fear. Or walls can be built to protect and defend. The choice is up to us. They are built one stone at a time. Or they can be built into a sanctuary. I think of all of the cathedrals I have had the privilege to visit in Europe where I stopped and prayed or attended worship. They are magnificent monuments built to the glory of God, although they often became, sadly, monuments built to the glory of the architect or the king or the bishop!

So, what are we to do with Peter’s commentary on cornerstones or even Jesus’ words in John 14 about many rooms/houses in God’s mansion? Is it all about building a nice little condo in heaven so that we can sit back and rest upon our spiritual laurels? Is it about building monuments dedicated to the glory of God, but in all reality being built to sooth our egos?

No, dear reader, I think it is about so much more than that! A song we used to sing when I was deployed to Afghanistan/Uzbekistan in 2005 is also a song we sing a lot at Cursillo. Sanctuary is the name of the song: “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary… Pure and Holy, tried and true… With thanksgiving I’ll be a living… Sanctuary for you.” Sanctuary

That, dear reader, is what I believe Peter’s words are calling us to be today. “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

We don’t need more cathedrals built to the glory of humankind. We need living sanctuaries built with Christ as the foundation! What is that foundation? For one thing, hear the words of Micah: “Do justice, love mercy/kindness, walk humbly with God.” Also hear the words of Jesus which transformed from Leviticus and Deuteronomy: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

My God we need to not only hear these words today, we need to live them! In a world fractured by religious animosity, hatred and fear, we need to live them! In a world where violence is the answer for everything from road rage to total warfare, we need to live them! Lord, make us a sanctuary, a living sanctuary, built upon the foundation of your Son who calls us to love unconditionally!

May we be a Spiritual House that is counter to what the world offers… Lord, may that house be a house of love, justice, mercy, grace, and peace. Dear reader, will you join me in being a part of such a house?

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