"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong . . ." - Psalm 15
I have travelled across counties, countries and continents to visit shrines and cathedrals. I've been blessed to visit the sacred sites of the Holy Land in Israel on more than one occasion. I've toured the Vatican and stood in St Peter's square before the grand basilica in Rome. I've stood at the Acropolis in Athens where philosophers expounded and the Apostle Paul preached. I've sailed the Aegean Sea to the Island of Patmos, where the Apostle John received the book of Revelation.
Yet, despite all these visits to sacred places, Psalm 15 reminds me that the essence of sacredness is not in a location but in a lifestyle. Sacred sites are preserved and revered because they help us to feel closer to God, and yet the Psalmist informs us that we can be no closer to God than the values we uphold in our everyday lives. As inspiring as they are, visits to holy places (including church on Sunday morning) do not constitute real holiness or sacredness.
Real holiness is determined by the honesty of our relationships, by the justice we promote in our communities, by the respect we express for others and by using our financial blessings to help those in need. The sacred is not really about special places, but good values that should be lived out in every place.
And when we live our faith in the love we share, in the service we give and in the justice we promote, we never leave the holy place, because we personify it.
What? Didn't you know that you are the temple of the most high God? Let's become the church that we invite others to attend.
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. And with thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary, Lord, for you. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.