“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
I have the recurring fantasy that some congregation asks me to help desire their new sanctuary from the ground up.
Not one has, so far. But if they did, here’s what I would say.
Make the footprint in the shape of a cross – like the old cathedrals – with the altar at one end and a baptismal font at the other. People would have to walk past the baptismal font in order to enter the sanctuary. (You can read why here.)
When the people do enter the sanctuary, they will find only one row of pews in the back. Once that row is filled, it automatically moves to the front and another empty row pops up to take its place. This will continue until the sanctuary is full or the service beings. This way, the sanctuary will be full from the front back!
The preacher will deliver his sermon from the pulpit, but if he goes longer than 25 minutes it lowers into the floor!
Okay, so this is a little too fantastical.
But here is one recommendation that I do make in all sincerity.
The lower ten feet of all four walls of the sanctuary should be clear windows. This way, the people can see the world they are sent out into in order to make disciples of all nations. Added bonus! The world can see into the sanctuary and what the people of God are doing when they worship!
The upper half of the windows should be beautiful stained glass with pictures that teach or convey the mysteries of God. Like the Nativity, Christ teaching his disciples, healing the sick, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, symbols of the Holy Trinity, the Means of Grace, etc.
And I would have spot lights on the stained glass windows. But not on the outside so the windows can be seen by those inside, but rather the spotlights should be on the inside so the windows can be seen by the world!
Jesus said that we Christians are to be the light of the world. His light in us should shine brightly so that others can see him in us and through us. By the things that we say and do, people should be able to see Jesus Christ!
Yet too often I find myself wanting the spotlight to shine on me instead of out of me. I want to be the center of attention. I want to be noticed. I want accolades and people to like me. I want people to see me and want to be me.
But this is not being the light of the world. If I’m the center, if the spotlight is on me, then people won’t be glorifying God. They will be glorifying me.
Even Jesus himself said to God “not my will, but your will be done” (Matthew 26).
Everything I do, everything I say, needs to bring the world’s attention to God and not to me. That’s what Jesus meant by telling us to let our light shine.
Because our light is actually his light, it comes from him! Jesus died on the cross to forgive my egotistical, self-centered sin. He took it away and buried it in the tomb.
When Jesus rose from the grave, he gave us his glorious, resurrected, light. By what we do and say, we shine the light of Christ in our lives!
This light is to shine on the world like a stained glass window illuminated from within a sanctuary.
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