After an hour of safe silence, the doors must . . .
The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him, I grew up singing.
Keep silence before him.
With those lyrics from Habakkuk we quieted ourselves for an hour in the pews of the holy temple we boisterous children who preferred rollicking songs with hand motions, like This Little Light of Mine.
I also grew up, though, learning that the temple is in the heart of a believer, not in an edifice of marble, sandstone or whitewashed boards.
I was taught that the church was the people, but I was taught just as often to hush myself in the church building.
I suspect many Christians this week have pondered that double teaching.
assault on First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs is not a
first, but its death toll is heavier than the combined weight of
all of these killed in the past decade:
One at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Tennessee.
One at Holy Ghost Tabernacle in New Jersey.
One at St. Peters Missionary Baptist Church in Ohio.
Three at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Maryland.
Nine at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South
One at Reformation Lutheran Church in Kansas.
Two in the parking lot of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in
Two at the Youth with a Mission Center in Colorado, and
· Five more nearby at New Life Church just a few hours later.
Those who gather in church buildings have a right to ponder their response to those who burst into the worshipful silence before the Living God with gunfire and death.
Some churches are talking about security measures, about arming their members, about locking the doors to maintain silence and safety.
I understand, for that death toll weighs heavy. Expect the discussion to be intense over whether it is best for a church to be open to the elements or locked like a mighty fortress.
Is it possible to have holy silence unless you keep at bay the threats of an unholy world?
Or is it possible to have holiness at all if the members stay locked away from the unholy world?
I ask that because of two other teachings with which I grew up:
First, to be holy is to be set apart.
Second, Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of the world.
Therefore, I am to be set apart from the noisy, dangerous world by my calling and purpose, but not by walls, doors, bars and distance that merely keep the world pushed away, so that I do not have to hear it and it does not have to hear me.
Even if my church mates weigh and pray and finally decide that they have no choice but to reinforce the doors of the church building so that Satan himself will not be able to break into the worship services even then, the more important decision will come when those services are over.
Will I, a true temple of the Lord, have the strength to stride from the silence into the noisy world?
I find a dark corner in which to shine my little light?
Will I hide it under a bushel? No Will I hide it behind a barricade? No, for a light kept safe behind strong doors is no light at all.
By Doug Mendenhall