As beautiful as our building may be, we do remember that in 2 Samuel, God says to the prophet, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in? I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”’ (2 Samuel 7:5-7)
Yes, God was okay with a tent. He did not need a palace. Nonetheless, the crowning achievement of David’s son King Solomon’s reign was the erection of a magnificent temple in Jerusalem built to honor the name of the Lord. We have been building them ever since.
There are many magnificent cathedrals all over the world. Regardless, of your faith tradition, one of the most beautiful churches is St. Peter’s Basilica (otherwise known as the Vatican) in Rome. I was blessed to be able to visit the Vatican in 2001. It is a truly stunning structure. Really breathtaking. So is St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Actually, I believe St. Patrick’s is larger than St. Peter’s. Why such structures? Cathedrals are built to inspire awe. That’s what the Vatican did to me. In medieval times, when many monumental cathedrals were built, they were meant to symbolize great faith, as well as to display the creative gifts God had given to artisans of the day.
When Cain killed his brother Abel, it was because God had rejected Cain’s offering. Why? Because Cain had not brought his best to the altar. Abel had. God wants us to give Him our best in all areas of life. He wants us to be the best believer/Christian, and the best son/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife, father/mother, friend/coworker that we can be. The premise was the same in the Middle Ages when constructing a church. The Master Builder designed ribbed vaults, buttresses, clustered columns, ambulatories, wheel windows, spires, stained glass windows, and richly carved doors. As an artisan, you wanted to offer God the very best of your gifts and talents. As a result, still today, we are able to enjoy the beauty and splendor of some of the most magnificent buildings humans have ever constructed.
Now, this does not make cathedrals any more holy or sacred than any humble, plain, New England Meeting House. Remember, God said He never complained about a tent. In the end, it is not about the structure. It is about the hearts of the people inside. Remember the story of the Widow’s Mite? Jesus was sitting near the collection box in the Temple watching as people dropped in their money. Many rich people were putting in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in only two small coins. Jesus remarks, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).
We do love our Meeting House and I hope you can visit someday, but remember, it is not about the amount of your offering or the size of your church. It is about giving God your very best. It is about the heart. It always has been, and it always will be. For, God also told Samuel, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
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