"I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." - Psalm 122:1
Hovering at the entryway, she stretched out her foot, as a cat might before stepping into a pool of water. No sooner had she begun than she retracted, recoiling with an electric-like jolt. "Are you sure it's ok?" she asked.
No wonder she was unsure. Attempting to step foot into a space that claimed to be a sanctuary is a spiritually risky endeavor. She did not know if she had what it took to engage that battle. The sanctuary was more than the smiling face greeting her inside. It was the home to quiet, untold saints and the claims they made and the people they embraced or sent away. She did not know where they were or what they would think of her. Without knowing this, she was not ready to go into the house of the Lord with gladness.
A person should not have to feel that they embark on a battle of spiritual warfare each time they come into our church. Yet, this is precisely what they do as they confront unseen spirits, assumptions, pronouncements. They are bringing their very souls for comfort and refreshment. Again and again, however, they receive the opposite.
No matter who we encounter, it is our work as followers of Christ to exorcise the spirits of unwelcome from the spaces we inhabit—to tell them, in the name of Jesus, that those spirits of unwelcome have no place in the House of the Lord. It is our work to make glad all of the saints so that when they dare to come forward for the succor they desperately need, no unchecked, lingering evil may step between them and their ability to proclaim gladness in any space we would claim as holy.
To those who have hesitated at the gate: trust your instincts. Ask more questions, especially of God, who will meet you anywhere.
Root out those spirits and practices that would do harm, O God. We all need a space to call holy and safe. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Minister of The Table, United Church of Christ of La Mesa, California.