Our Church, Our Jerusalem Temple

Our gospel story takes place in the iconic sacred space known as the Upper Room.

Tapping into my inner Dwight Schrut, I say this. Fact: the first Christian church can be traced back to the Upper Room. It is where the first communion happened. It is where Jesus revealed to his disciples the full extent of the resurrection. And its where Pentecost happened.

The Upper Room was the upstairs space of a larger home in Jerusalem. It is called the cenacle, and it is still there. Its been maintained well all these years and you can visit it.

Why was it important to the first Christians 2,000 years ago all the way up to now to maintain that sacred space so well? Why is it important for us to take care of our church sanctuary?

That’s the question I want to look at today.

To answer this question we must go all the way back to the Jerusalem temple. The Jerusalem temple was segmented into three spaces. 


There was the: 

Porch:  Also known as the vestibule. This is where peoplegathered and provided their sacrifices to the priests. We might imagine it as our narthex.

Holy Place/Sanctuary: This is the main room for religious service where the sacrifices were offered by priests, sacrifices given to them in the narthex by the people. Only the priests were allowed to enter this space.

Holy of Holies: This is the most sacred room where the Ark of the Covenant is meant to rest. This space is where God lives and only the high priest can enter it and only during the Day of Atonement.

 Well, with Jesus, Good Friday, and Easter, something amazing happens for Christians.

Remember the story of the curtains of the temple being torn from the top and down? That curtain divided the porch where all the people stayed and the sanctuary where only the priests were allowed to go, that curtain is torn open with Jesus’ selfless sacrifice on the cross. His is the final sacrifice. With this sacrifice, there needs to be no other sacrifice.

So, God does the tearing of the curtain, hence it is torn from the top down.

Well, what happens as a result? The sanctuary is now open to the people. Jesus, the ultimate mediator, our eternal high priest, Christ Jesus opens to us the sanctuary and brings us in. Not only the sanctuary, he opens for us the Holy of Holies and brings us in. We can be where God lives now because of Jesus!

Just a word about the Holy of Holies. This is the sacredest space in the temple.

Well, for Christian churches, the Communion table is the new Holy of Holies space!

That is why Communion is so important. The Communion table takes the place of the Holy of Holies and we are all invited to meet there!

Yes, Communion can happen anywhere. Why? Because Communion led by an ordained pastor makes that space holy ground. But some spaces are purposely set apart as holy in and of themselves and thus able to host the Communion event. The church and the Communion table are such holy spaces.

So, what does this all mean? Why it is important?

Well, the Upper Room we just read about, with Christ’s resurrection became the new Jerusalem temple!

And every subsequent church sanctuary became the same.

This sanctuary, this space, is the equivalent of the Jerusalem temple. It is holy ground in and of itself. It doesn’t need to be made holy. It is holy!

We sometimes forget this. This sanctuary is holy ground!

I’ll admit to forgetting.

A few months ago, amid a stressful run that comes with being a pastor, I expressed to the Council or maybe to our moderator Dave, I don’t have the bandwidth to pastor the building.

But, considering it more deeply, a pastor can’t get away from pastoring the building? Because, at least when it comes to this sanctuary, the building is holy ground! It is the space where we sit with God and partake of Communion. It is our Holy of Holies.

That said, I’m not the only pastor when it comes to this holy ground. We are all called to pastor – to honor, appreciate, be good stewards of – this holy ground. 

As you may know, we are looking at a pretty significant repair and renovation of the steeple and the sanctuary as a whole. We will soon be meeting to discuss just that – more news on this to come. A capital campaign may be in the works.

As we look toward this important work, I’m hoping we can remember this is not at all insignificant. I think you’d agree with that. But it goes deeper than just a matter of significant vs. insignificant. It is a sacred matter.

Our holy ground needs our tender care and resources. It is holy work, this tender care and giving of our resources for this sanctuary. It is one of the most important things we do. For this sanctuary isn’t simply an asset. It isn’t simply a historic building. It isn’t simply an auditorium in which to gather. It is holy ground. It is the sanctuary where we sit with God and worship Christ. It is the holy of holies where we partake of Christ’s presence. It is our Jerusalem temple.  

In some ways, how we treat it is indicative of the strength of our collective faith. On the basis of our faith, we need to be strong in our caring for the gift of this sanctuary and for the God we worship herein.

So, as we move forward, caring for our sanctuary by seeing it repaired, I pray you will remember this is holy work because this is holy ground.



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