1 Kings 8:29 (NIV)
May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My name shall be there.”
Hebrews 3:6 (NASB)
Christ was faithful as a Son over his house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
An observation in a recent podcast caught my attention. The fact that the institutional church in Europe has declined so greatly has been closely connected with moral and spiritual decline there. If there is no one who is championing the cause, and nothing that represents presence of the cause is evident, the cause will become passe’, and ultimately an irrelevant curiosity. The mission is discarded in favor of a desire to maintain the monument, until the monument becomes a puzzling landmark – like the statues on Easter Island.
Solomon prayed for God’s attention to the temple he had built; that God’s name would be present there. And while people’s attention was drawn to the temple as a focus for their prayers, the temple itself was not to be their focus. All too soon, however, their attention was focused on the temple itself and God’s presence and promise were neglected.
The greatest reminder of God’s presence in the community, however, is not a church building. The greatest witness to God’s promises is people who hold to the confidence of God’s promises and boast of their hope in Christ. Jesus did that faithfully and is the ground and source of our confidence and hope.
A steeple, a cross, or a stained glass window remind us to gather as God’s people to hear God’s promises and go with God’s promises into the world. At best the church is a place where people celebrate the faithfulness of God and the place from which the people of God go to make a true difference in the world. That’s not a puzzling curiosity, but our true calling. Our church buildings will not become monuments as long as we keep the confidence and hope in Jesus firm until the end.