October 2020

“Make me a sanctuary . . . according to the design I
shall show you”
Exodus 25. 8-9 (NRSV - slightly adapted)
The construction of temples and churches has been a feature of human
endeavour for thousands of years. Frequently it is noticeable that the design of
the buildings and contents as well as of the liturgies is reckoned as Divinely
ordered. This is clear in this month’s Saying: though quite how the Israelites are
to access the elaborate and costly stuff that is listed for making and furnishing
the sanctuary while they are camping out in the middle of the desert remains a
mystery to me!
What is no mystery, however, is how the concept of making a space for God is a
key factor in New Testament teaching. The emergence of Christianity in the first
century coincides with the shattering conclusion to Jewish temple worship.
The significance of this is not lost on Saint Paul, nor on the writer of the Letter
to the Hebrews. You need to look up 1 Corinthians 3.16, and Ephesians 2. 21-22,
and read the 9th chapter of Hebrews to appreciate the insight which gives this
Saying a new and important perspective. Holy places, however elaborate or
beautiful, are of little value unless those who use them are able themselves to
become loving spaces where God can dwell.
If we are to become, as Saint Paul teaches, temples of the Holy Spirit individually
and collectively (both are important), then we need to listen deeply to this
Saying and let it permeate both our lives and our worship. And we build this
inner space, carefully and usually painstakingly, in accordance with the pattern
that God gives.
The pattern or design, of course, is none other than Jesus of the Gospels. And
unless you are a saint (and possibly even if you are), the endeavour to create
that inner sanctuary is a lifetime process and a total commitment. At the same
time, by God’s grace, our God-space has already begun to form itself in our
inner being and to be a blessing to others. In it we pray; from it we derive our
loving behaviour; aware of it, we can intercede contemplatively and thus share
it with others who need it whether they know it or not.