When I was a kid, we had certain terms for the different places in the church building. And the place where the worship service, sermon and big events happened was always called the "Sanctuary". For thirty three years it has been a sanctuary for me. It is the place I met mentors. I was baptized there. I got married there, and my husband baptized all four of our children there. My son and his wife were married there, and many of my family have passed through its doors on their way to their final resting place. This is where I came face to face with Jesus.
Last week, I was reminded harshly that it is NOT the sanctuary of my childhood anymore, because the sanctuary is "here" as person yelling defensively points to her chest.....
I beg to differ.
I am sorry for the interruption in the current culture in the church where I take ownership because I have lived there forever, but that big ole room where we sing on Sunday morning will always be the sanctuary to me. Let me just explain why.
For real spiritual things have happened to me there. For real , life changing commitments are made there. Jesus DOES reside there for some, because the only time they see Him is when they are there. In that space we have re-named the "auditorium".
I remember when we went through a phase of calling this room the "family room"...my grandma said "Well, that's silly, we all have a living room in our homes, this is not a living room, its a sanctuary, where we come together for worship, communion and praise. Next they are going to be playing drums and wearing jeans..." Oh Grandma. If you could see us now, with our awesome praise band and the jeans I have dubbed my "church jeans', because they have no holes and are pretty denim with my funky shirts and converse....
Oops, I digress....
Some people tend to think their way of thinking is the only way of thinking...surprise- that is the wrong way to go if we are going to reach out and do what Jesus said to do. The sanctuary in our building is just that, a sanctuary. It is a place of rest, escape and sometimes refuge. I have gone there many times unknown to others, to cry, pray and plead with God for direction, peace and forgiveness. I have witnessed huge changes in people and their behavior when they enter this space. For some people, a sanctuary is just what they need to turn them towards Jesus. People need to know they are loved, protected and genuinely cared for. They need to know there is a place they can go because there is no other place on earth like the one you feel the safest in. And if the church having a sanctuary does that for even one person, then isn't that the point?
I understand the body is a temple, Jesus lives in me, and I am the vessel of the Holy Spirit. I have been a round a while. My new friend who doesn't know Jesus thinks He lives in the church, for her that is a very real baby step towards her walk with Christ. When she is ready for growth, God will show her how to allow Jesus to live within her. As an unchurched, unfamiliar, newly interested woman, shouldn't we give her every opportunity to believe that Jesus is everywhere? It has to start somewhere. For her it starts in he sanctuary.
When my Grandma Kell died, her funeral was in the sanctuary. It was such a personal day for me. I was with her when she took her final breath, I was there when they closed the casket, and I am forever grateful it was in our sanctuary, because I will always remember her as my Grandma who prayed for me and gave me her everything. Once in a while, when I come into church I smell her perfume, and I am reminded of the importance of this room, the Sanctuary, and what it has meant to me in my walk with Christ, with my husband and to my family.
The Sanctuary was my starting place, my beginning, I found Jesus there. And He meets me there every Sunday morning after He and I leave my living room in my house for worship and praise, learning and loving.
I love my church, but loving something doesn't always mean agreeing with every thing it stands for. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles carefully, and this name change is not a battle for me.
It will always be the Sanctuary for this girl, no matter what .