Sacred Places or Sacred People?
You hear it every year. But this year, it caught my attention. Close to Easter, the news channels talk about the holy places of the Christian faith. One news broadcaster claimed that the Church of the Holy Church Sepulcher was Christianityâ€™s most holy church.
How did these places become holy? With the coming of Christ and the establishment of the Church the most holy objects in this life are people. Believers are the church, not buildings. It is the People of God who are holy, not the buildings in which they meet. Peter addresses this subject: 1 Peter 1:15-16: but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
1 Peter 2:9-10: But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
Places can be important and meaningful. They are set aside for sacred purposes like worship. But we are not like the Muslims who have scared cities and sacred sites. God is the creator of all places, they all belong to him. In the Old Testament places were marked with memorials because what happened there was important. But the place itself was just a place. A place was holy because God was there. The burning bush was called Holy Ground by God himself but we donâ€™t know where it was. Today scholars argue over the location of Mt. Sinai. If it was so sacred and so important, I think God would have preserved its location. The same is true of Golgotha or the burial place of Jesus. It is not the place that is important, it is what happened there that must be remembered. There was a place, Christ did die on a cross and was buried in a tomb. But he rose again and those places fade in significance when you consider the resurrection. And when you realize the resurrection abides in each follower of Jesus, then you begin to see what is really important. Eternity flows through our veins. The promises of God are so sure than even now as we decay day by day, the reality of resurrection causes our physical decline and even death to pale by comparison.
We are quick to label places holy but we neglect to understand what is truly holy. It is my brother and sister in Christ which is holy. C. S. Lewis made the point in the Weight of Glory that we are creatures that will one day be such that if we could see ourselves today, we would be tempted to fall down and worship or to flee as a demon from hell. We are declared to be holy and we are on a journey of holiness. God is making us into the likeness of Christ. It is a restoration of the Image of God from which we have fallen and to which we will be restored. Paul described this restoration as glory, 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.
Sacred places? I say no. But to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I remind you that you are sacred objects, you are the people of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. God declared his name over you and you are his. That is the kind of holiness worth celebrating.