Sacred Spaces

Richard Casteel
February 3, 2011

My wife, Becky, and I have had the privilege to visit Prague, in the Czech Republic on several occasions. The city is rich in history and architecture, with lots of wonderful old historic buildings, some of which date as far back as the Roman Empire. One of my favorite things to do while in Prague is to go into any of the many cathedrals and monasteries that can be found all over the city.

I will never forget the first time I walked into the immense Cathedral of St. Vitus, which rises out of the center of the Prague Castle and looms high over the city. Construction on this old, gothic structure began in 1344 and was not completed until the early 1900s, after over 600 years of construction. It is awe-inspiring just to walk through its ponderous ornate doors. The lavish stained glass windows, tall vaulted ceilings, and massive columns speak of the majesty of worship and of the Gospel of Christ.

As I stood there taking everything in, the detailed statues, the ornate altars, the rich textures of the building materials, I couldn’t help but marvel at the richness and diversity of the Body of Christ as reflected in the buildings and meeting places in which people gather to worship all around the world. As I stood in this ponderous gothic cathedral in the heart of Prague, my mind was flooded with images of all the many other sacred spaces that I have worshipped in over a lifetime of missionary travels.

I could see the old Spanish colonial home that my parents converted into a storefront mission in Cuba when I was just a young boy. It had thick plastered walls that held up a ceiling of hand-hewn beams and bricks, with long iron-grated windows that opened directly onto the sidewalk and the cobblestone street in front of it. It was in this old dank church that I committed my life to Christ as a small child while kneeling on varnished wooden benches my father had built. This was also the sacred space where a large number of Cubans gave their lives to Christ and were discipled into a congregation that is still a witness for Christ more than 50 years later.

I remembered the little group of believers that met under the thatch-roofed porch of a tiny adobe house out in the country town of Hornillos, Mexico. I can still see old Hermano Victor stand to sing of the grace of God. He was Tarahumara Indian from the high sierra of northern Mexico that had been infamously known for  his long life of violence and drunkenness. Brother Victor would stand worshipping, with tears running down his cheeks, overwhelmed at the forgiveness and redemption he had found in Christ.

I thought of the large contemporary church in Tucson, where the Gospel has been faithfully preached for over 40 years. Thousands of people have wept in repentance and joy on their knees at its carpeted altar and fellowshipped in the spacious meeting rooms and fellowship hall.  

I remembered the Japanese believers that met in a small room in an office building in Sapporo, Japan. They sat on metal folding chairs to listen with intense reverence to the Gospel message. Then, after the sermon, they all pulled back the chairs and danced joyfully in the center of the room in praise and thanksgiving, celebrating all that God had done in their lives. The Holy Spirit filled their little non-descript place of worship with His glorious presence.

My mind also flashed to the high Andean mountains of Ecuador where I stood and prayed with the native pastor and his leaders for God to provide funds to put a roof on their little cement block and mortar sanctuary. This congregation met every Sunday in their sanctuary without a roof! They were trusting God to help them complete their construction so they could reach more of their neighbors for Jesus.

Finally, I thought about the church I pastor in Scottsdale, with its beautiful modern auditorium, its white pillars that surround the outside courtyard, and the wonderful people who gather there on the padded pews for worship, discipleship, and prayer.  

I was struck by the diversity of the Body of Christ. The wide range of sacred spaces we meet in, and minister out of, that reflect the unique and rich expression of Christ around the world. It also demonstrates a glorious truth: that God fills the praises of His people, whether the worship is with extravagant pipe organs that reverberate in gothic cathedrals, or with rhythmic drums beating under a tree in the bush of Africa. God loves His Church and loves to fill their worship where wherever they gather, whether large or small, lavish or simple, as long as His Church is there to worship Him.

So, this week when you stand to worship God in your particular sacred space, stop and think about your Christian family that is gathering in places of worship all around the world and let your praises ring! Christ’s Body, His Church, with all its diversity and richness, is worshipping as one Church, in many sacred places, and you are part of it!