Sticks And Stones

Every building communicates something about its use, its builder, and its age. Did you ever stop to think what your church building says to the world about you and about your faith? If not, as you sit in a pew next Sunday morning before the service begins, analyze the pew, the pulpit, the windows, the floor plan, the appointments of the church, and consider what all these tell the world.

The manner in which a people choose to house their gods can symbolize the religion, the concept of the god, the worship service, the nature of the people and their relationship with other cultures. For example, the tabernacle—a tent with carefully prescribed partitions and environs and floor plan—is a striking image of a nomadic people, of the God who spoke to them through their leader, Moses, of their obedience to the very letter of the law. It was set in the midst of the people to remind them that God himself dwelt in their midst. It housed the Ark of the Tabernacle, a reminder of God’s law and his voice speaking unequivocably to his chosen people. Its adornments were their tribute to his glory. Its Holy of Holies was a symbol of his “otherness.” Its laver and altar and table were reminders of their ritual. The symbols were all far more complex than this would suggest, but this outline provides a useful pattern for analysis.

The more affluent, settled Judaism shows itself forth in Solomon’s Temple with its cedars of Lebanon, its gold inlay and delicate wall decoration. The continuity of the religion is apparent in the preservation of the floor plan, the maintenance of the discrete elements and symbols (such as candlesticks, table of shewbread, altar), the approach through cleansing and ...

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