Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We Build Churches

It started at the Church of Beatitudes.

In my brain, that sermon is on a hillside in Galilee. There is a breeze from the lake in the distance. Jesus is talking, his sandals planted firm on grass and dirt. There are rocks. Some people sit on the rocks and some stand.

And, yes, that hillside is there, but also there is a church. A large manmade structure that takes up so much of what I dreamed I would find there. So much space. So much air. So much nature.

All of that was cleared away so man could build a church.

Was that place not holy enough already? 
Are grass and trees and rocks not enough
to be a sanctuary?

I fought that feeling as we left, but it showed back up at the Church of the Multiplication and again at the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter. At each of these locations, I found some part of nature and that is where I meditated. That is where I sought God's face.

I found that others had the same problem I did.
Why all the churches?
Do we really need a fancy building to mark each place Jesus stepped?

Now, don't get me wrong. I love church buildings. They are often a safe place for me. Empty sanctuaries filled with vintage prayer… I find God in those places. 

I do.

I dream of standing in the Chartres Cathedral, walking that ancient labyrinth.

But it was bothering me in Israel, where I never thought a church would be needed.
Who needs a building when you have the Builder?

I wrestled with this until it hit me.
Sitting in a cave behind, you guessed it, a church, I had an epiphany.

And from that epiphany came this poem:

We build churches
where You've already built


Our instinct drives us
to raise an ebenezer
in the place where You
remembered us.
We are reaching up
with stone arms
through cold winds and
falling stars,
trying to hold onto this


of past incarnation, of past
seeing You.
We cannot let go
long enough to feel
that You
are still

So we build churches
and climb their spires,
toes curled on crosses
and fingers grasping,
but also we are prone
to bend low,
to touch forehead
to dirty stone
and beg for this


Your glory,
to fall down through stars
and greet us in
cold wind and trembling
We stretch and we
and then we bow low again,
all longing,
for the day we simply
and You are there
in Your


Until then,
we build churches.
We build
churches in hope of


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