And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
Last time I wrote about the worship experiences we had during our search for a new church home. We knew what we were looking for - having experienced it once before - but we were on the verge of being convinced we wouldn't find it locally.
Then we went to a church that meets in a YMCA gymnasium. The makeshift stage and metal folding chairs loudly declare their temporariness. The acoustics leave much to be desired. There's no room for a choir, and the musicians spill out from the black stage onto the glossy gym floor. When the heater turns on, it sounds like a firecracker being set off. And yet it is in this place that I have worship God.
As our pastor reminds us, the worship service on Sunday is God's gift to His people - a respite in a harsh world and a time of refreshing. The cares of the week often press in against my soul, rendering me bone weary and out of sorts. It is during this sacred time that I am brought back to the reason for my hope (Col. 1:27). It is here that I am brought to tears and want to cry out with Isaiah, "Woe is me!" (Isaiah 6:1-5) And it is here that I am given the assurance that my many, many sins are forgiven (Psalm 103:8-12). It is here that I worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
I have walked the aisles of Notre Dame in Paris and of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. They are works of magnificent splendor. Stunningly beautiful, to say the least. But they did not come close to giving me the feeling I have every time I step into that loud and unaesthetic gym. I smile as I remember that the Israelites also had a temporary church, but "...the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34).
The object of our worship isn't to be found in the size of a building, the architectural elements of it, or the finery that fills it. Moses knew that. He knew he did not want to continue without God's presence. He begged God to show him His glory (Exodus 33:15-18). God granted his request. When Moses descended Mount Sinai, his face shone so much that the people were afraid (Exodus 34:29-33). He had worshiped God well.
It is my prayer that when I leave church each week, I may say the same. It doesn't matter where I meet Him; I only want people to look at my face and know I have been in the presence of God.