February 2016

In every place (where I cause my Name to be remembered) I will come to you and bless you
[Exodus 20.24]

I am sure that, like me, you will have visited an ancient church building and felt the reality of Go d's presence. It is strange how, in some churches, one can sense an aura of holiness while others don't give you the same feeling. I cannot account for t hat. But the building of a sanctuary, a holy place, appears to be a basic instinct in the human race, and this Saying from Exodus (and others, e.g. Exodus 25.8) affirms this instinct as a kind of divine command to build a house for God.

The outcome of this in Old Testament times was t he construction of the great Temple in Jerusalem, where the Wailing Wall remains as a reminder of its glory and a focus for Jewish hopes and longings. Add to that the innumerable temples, mosques and churches all over the world, and it all adds up to a truly remarkable outpouring of faith and devotion to God who is known by so many names.

This Saying, however, carries a further dimension. On most Sunday mornings, I worship in a Church w ithout a building. It is a District Church dedicated to St Michael and meets in a school hall. Michaelmas 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of its founding. So each Sunday for over 50 years, a school hall has become a sanctuary, a "place where I cause MY NAME to be remembered," a focus of God's blessing for the congregation and the district in which they live.

Another key biblical text to ponder in connection with this month's Saying is 2 Corinthians 6.16, "you are the temple of the living God." You have probably been reminded more than once by preachers who tell us that religion is not, and must never be, just a Sunday affair. God's faithful people, including contemplatives, are charged with making God's presence effective "at all times and in all places."