Snow. And lots of it. And on a Sunday. Very rarely do we allow outside influences to keep us from our celebration service on Sunday. In fact, I can only remember a handful of times in the past 15 years as a follower of Christ when my family and I were prevented from attending Sunday morning service somewhere to celebrate our risen Lord. We just simply don’t miss this weekly appointment. Even when we are traveling on vacation, we make it a point to attend somewhere. But not today. Today, we were facing slick roads, 10 inches of fresh, blowing snow, and service was ultimately canceled.
For some, this was probably a welcome relief to the thought of the extra burden of getting around earlier than normal to shovel themselves out and making sure they allowed the extra travel time necessary to arrive at church safely. For others, this was a healthy disappointment because of their sincere love for the assembling together of the saints for corporate worship, prayer, fellowship, and the word. For me, I can relate to both groups of people. But this morning, as I finally rolled out of bed after sleeping in later than I can remember doing for years, my heart and mind were filled with appreciation…appreciation for the New Testament temple.
In the Old Testament, God’s people weren’t allowed to have snow days. What I mean by that, is if some type of bizarre desert blizzard hit the camp of the Israelites as they meandered toward the Promised Land (which by the way I’m pretty sure never happened), they couldn’t afford to take a day off from visiting the tabernacle because there were daily responsibilities to attend to. Or later, after King Solomon was given the privilege of constructing the temple in Jerusalem, skipping out on the services because the paths leading up to the temple mount were too icy would not have been an option because there were sins to atone for. You see, the structure of the tabernacle and later the temple was where God met His people.
God instructed them in the wilderness saying:
“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8 (NASB95)
The sanctuary was the place where worship happened. This was the place where sins were pardoned. This was the place where God spoke to His people. This was the location of the presence of Almighty God.
But this was all about to change. As Solomon foreshadowed during his prayer at the dedication of the temple saying:
“But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built.” 2 Chronicles 6:18 (NASB95)
There was coming a day when God would not dwell in a temple made by human hands. This day came in part when God sent His Son, born of a virgin, and they called Him “Immanuel, God with us.” And again John tells us:
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The coming of Jesus signaled the beginning of the end for the temple in Jerusalem. It became outdated and obsolete for those who would be God’s true worshipers, those worshipers who worship not on a mountain but in spirit and in truth. You see, when Jesus showed up, the purpose of the temple had run its course. As Hebrews points out for us, the tabernacle was merely a type and shadow of Jesus who is the antitype and the substance of what God was predicting in the Old Testament. This was solidified further on the Day of Pentecost when the presence of God on earth was expanded even further by the descent of the Holy Spirit with a mighty rushing wind after the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. And while we read that the Spirit has been given without measure to those who seek Him, we know that there is coming a day in the not too distant future in which the fullness of the presence of God will be manifested throughout the universe for all to witness.
So, what does all of this have to do with us canceling church for snow this morning and my heart of appreciation? Well, it is simply this…I was reminded this snowy morning that my relationship with God is not contingent upon a location, but instead, it rests in the work of Jesus Christ. I am not required to exert great effort by risking life and limb to get to a certain location before I am able to have fellowship with my God. His Holy Spirit has taken up residency within my heart and life, sealing me with a view to the redemption He has promised, empowering me to be His witness, and gifting me for the work of ministry and the edification of His church. None of that hinges upon my location and for that I am extremely appreciative, beyond what mere words can convey.
I love church! For the record, I love church, but church is not necessarily about a location. As I mentioned before, we rarely miss the weekly Sunday morning celebration. I love the people in the church, I love what happens in the church, and I also respect that God’s word has instructed me not to forsake gathering together with the church as some are in the habit of doing. But I am not saved and given the privilege of His presence because I attend a church. I am saved because of grace through the gift of faith in Christ alone. And I will remain saved and continue to experience His presence by that same gift of grace.
No doubt there were several churches who held services this morning despite the snow and slick roads. Some, to be sure, only did it because of an unhealthy sense of guilt if they didn’t. Possibly for others, it was out of a sense of pride that motivated them to open the doors. But, hopefully, those who held services can say they did it solely out of their love for their God and their congregations.
But for those of us who missed church because of a snow day, I hope you can share in my appreciation and joy knowing that our relationship with God and His love for us was not hindered one bit because of it!