When I was a child and attended the First Baptist Church of Melrose, there was a scripture passage written on the arch at the front of the church – It was, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”
12Then Jesus went into the temple ◙ of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ ◙ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” ◙
14Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,
‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?” ◙
17Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
Good afternoon. What a beautiful time for a walk. The sun is bright, the sky is unclouded, and the temperature is around fifty degrees. The snow is melting, and we are probably being fooled that springtime is near. But here in New England, we always have to take the weather day-by-day or even hour-by-hour. How are you? Have you had a good week so far? Have you taken a little time to talk with God, to seek His advice or strength?
When you believe in God, you wonder how others can live life without Him. Walking here in New Hampshire, God is everywhere in the world of nature. As a pastor, I can understand why people at times forget that God is especially in the Church, in the sacred places that we have dedicated to Him. He certainly walks in the fields and the woods, ocean side, and in the mountains. Yet when His people gather in His house or temple, He awaits their prayers and supplications.
When Dale and I began Candleberry Chapel, it was only a carriage house. It had a history and a beauty all of its own, but it was not what one would term a sacred place. For years, it had been a place for horses and a carriage, later for automobiles and storage, but it did not have a sense of the presence of God. That was to change but not immediately. It became sacred as events with the presence of God took place.
It seems I can remember the first time I had to return home for a moment during a service, and when I returned, I could hear a hymn being sung by the congregation in a place that had only known the sound of radio or of a lone voice. Now there were a multitude of voices praising God.
Over a period of time, baptisms took place. Young families with their new babies were coming to the Chapel to have their children baptized. Now we had hymns of praise to God, and God’s presence as parents and godparents promised to raise a child in the Christian faith. How I have seen old fashioned grand parents smile in gratefulness that their grandchild was going to be raised as a Christian.
Later weddings were held in the chapel, and God was present blessing a man and woman, as they became husband and wife. How this pastor can picture in his mind a middle-aged man and woman being married there – the man terminally ill. After they were married, they asked if they could dance there in the Chapel. How God was hovering over us as He put His arms around that husband and wife and danced with them. I believe He promised that newly married couple that He would watch over them in life and in death.
And in that Chapel funerals began to be held. Small intimate gatherings as words of faith and promise were repeated. “ I am the resurrection and the life saith the Lord.” That chapel has been a place of tears of happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow comforted. No, it is not the outside world of nature, but in a sense, it is a womb of Almighty God, a place of warmth and security, hope and love. It is a place where you can worship and pray and feel the very touch of God in your soul.
In every church this pastor has served over the past fifty-six years, there has been sacredness to the sanctuaries in those churches – for those sanctuaries have witnessed the interaction of God with His children. There should be a place like that in our lives where we especially find God, and other people of a like faith.
What churches can you remember that have a special place in your heart? What church do you hold as a very holy place because you or your family or friends have had an encounter there with our Lord?
Years ago, one of my sons asked Lenny, the sexton of the Church I was serving, who was sleeping there? Lenny asked him what he meant, and my son replied, “ Someone must be sleeping there for every time we enter the church together my father says, “Shhh.” Where have you worshipped that when you entered, you felt overcome with quietness and love and a great awareness of the sacredness of our Lord Jesus Christ? Maybe it is time for you to visit there again.
Dale and I did that many Sundays ago for I wished to see the church I attended as I grew up and was baptized in along with my sisters and brothers. We worshipped in the First Baptist Church of Melrose as a family a long time ago, and it still, in my memories, overpowers me with God’s and a parent’s love. What church do you attend now? What church did you attend in the past? What Sunday will you return to a church and Christ’s enfolding love?
O Almighty God, we give you thanks that there have been those who have built churches where we may gather together and worship, places that become more holy as years pass. We are grateful for a place where we can come alone or together to pray and to ask for Your help and guidance. We pray for the Christian Church at a time when it is faltering, and ask You to give us the skill and wisdom and the faith to invite others to our faith, our hope, our life, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Until we walk together again, “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”