by Sharon Pendley
March 30, 2015
Matthew 27:51-52 – At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (NIV)
I have recently been drawn to the sanctuary building just as I was immediately after the fire. I find myself taking every opportunity to drive by and look. I have been reflecting on those feelings and in doing so was recalling the day that the steeple was brought down after the fire.
It was a clear and quiet day though I don’t remember the exact date. I left work so that I could be there and the work had begun before I arrived. There was a huge piece of equipment that you would think I could identify after serving on the building committee for two years. It was pulling on the structure and I learned the intent was to bring it down in a specific spot so as not to cause a dangerous collapse in other places. As they pulled on brick and wood the bell tower did not easily give up. It took quite a while and I was preparing myself for the crashing sound of brick, wood, and glass as it fell. What a surprise when in a quiet moment, the bell tower and steeple slowly and quietly tumbled over into just the spot that was intended. Smoke billowed up but I kid you not, there was barely a sound. Immediately after, I smelled the unique smell of our church. It was a smell that I remembered every time I entered the church just as our homes have their own smell. I mentioned it to Maxine and she started to smell it as well. It was a spiritual and reverent moment for both of us and the spirits of the cloud of witnesses were palpable in that moment. I was overcome by the memories of those people and even of ones I never knew who built that church, its physical self, its spiritual self, and its mission.
During my Lenten reflections, this day has reminded me of Jesus’ journey in his final days. Jesus did not want to be brought down and he could have riled up the crowds that were calling for his crucifixion, especially knowing that God was on his side. But he didn’t. He knew what His Father’s plan was for him and even though the human in him was deeply saddened and fearful, the God part of him knew that it was for the good of the world and that He would be welcomed into the arms of His Father. On that quiet day when he hung on a cross there was little noise but unlike our steeple, when Jesus died there was the equivalent of an earthquake. The spiritual bodies were brought up to heaven just as I felt the cloud of witnesses present as the steeple breathed its last breath.
Can a building have a life or be compared to Jesus? I am fully aware that the church is the people and it doesn’t matter where they are and have been reminded of that frequently by people since the fire. However, I also felt tangible souls and the presence of God on the day that steeple came down and I will never forget it. It bombarded every one of my senses and I cannot deny the holiness of that place to myself. It challenges me to consider worship as important as education, mission, and building committee. They are all equally important but I’m sorry to say that spending time in true worship of God often takes a back seat to the others and while I could easily rationalize that when I’m doing the other three I am worshipping, is that really giving God the time of praise, thanksgiving, and contemplation that I should? The day the steeple came down was true worship for me and obviously it has affected me in a way that will last forever. I believe that worship has that ability.
Prayer: I pray that I will seek worship as much as I do the other spiritual disciplines in my life and that as we move into our new sanctuary all my senses will be aware of the cloud of witnesses that surround us .