If you visited the 1st century Jewish temple, and were more of a free spirit who blew off boundaries, there's a good chance you'd wind up in the Jerusalem morgue.
Non-Jews were only allowed in the very outer perimeter of the temple complex. Modern churches have a hand-shaking, coffee-drinking Welcome area of a church. The Court of the Gentiles was like that (minus the Starbucks). That's as far as you could go. Try to sneak your way closer to where the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were, and you were signing your own execution notice.
There were actually warning signs posted in this area. In 1871 archaeologists unearthed one of them. The Greek letters, chiseled into white limestone and painted red, said:
"No foreigner may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure.
Whoever is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his death which will follow."
How's that for a Welcome to Church sign?
"Come join us for Sunday services!
But get too close to the altar and the deacons will shoot you."
When it came to holy space, these folks weren't playing around.
If you were a Gentile, you stood way out there.
If you were a Jewish woman, you could get a little closer.
If you were a Jewish man, you could take a few steps closer.
If you were a Jewish priest, you could make it to the altar and Holy Place.
If you were the Jewish high priest, once a year, you could set foot within the Holy of Holies.
You better know your place, or your place would be among the dead. Holiness, including holy space, was nothing to be trifled with.
It's still not.
@@The NT did not erase holiness from the spiritual life, but expanded and transformed it.@@
The prophet Zechariah foresaw this long ago. He foretells the time when the same inscription that was found on the high priest's golden headband, "Holy to Yahweh," would be found on the bells of horses (14:20). Picture the high priest in cowboy boots and Wranglers. And every pot in Jerusalem, Zechariah says, will be just as holy at those used in the temple worship. The frying pan Mom used to cook breakfast is just as sacred as the pot used to catch the blood of a sacrificial lamb.
This old preacher, Zechariah, didn't abolish holiness. He spread it out. He pushed it beyond the boundaries of the temple. One commentator puts it this way:
"In the Church of the New Testament, every 'pot,' every vessel, every tool, every instrument used in the serve of the Lord to His glory, will be holy, the broom in the hand of the Christian housemaid as well as the scepter of the king; the pick and shovel of the miner as well as the pen of the preacher." (The Minor Prophets, Laetsch, 506).
That's why we don't hang warning signs in churches. Every man, woman, and child in Christ has been made holy. They have been sanctified. We emerge from the waters of baptism dripping with holiness. It is a gift from the Holy One himself.
Where we are, there Jesus is. So where we are is holy space. Not because of us but because of the one into whom we have been crucified and resurrected. We live and move and have our being in our Lord. He permeates our everyday existence with holiness.
I drive a truck for a living. It's a sacred semi, a vehicle of holiness, in which I serve as a priest of freight delivery. My altar has a diesel engine (as you can read about here).
My wife is a dental hygienist. Her altar is a mouth full of teeth that need cleaning. Her instruments are sacred. She serves as a priest in the holy vocation of making sure you have healthy gums and a good smile.
@@Wherever you work or study or play, is sacred space.@@ It's holy to the Lord because you are holy to the Lord. You are in Christ, the very incarnation of sanctity.
Holiness has been transformed and expanded. Churches are holy spaces, where the Word of God is preached. Hospitals are holy spaces, where the saints of God care for the sick. Wheat fields are holy spaces, where farmers in John Deere tractors raise what will one day be bread on our table.
Holiness is nothing to be trifled with. It is to be respected, treasured, loved, and rejoiced over, wherever it is found. It is found where Jesus is. And where Jesus is, there is God's turf.
To learn more about sacred space, and how it applies to the Christian life, watch this YouTube video in which I talk about how Holiness is Contagious.
To read more about the sacred nature of the Christian vocation, check out this book by Gene Veith, The Spirituality of the Cross.