Summary: What’s So Special About This Place? 1) God speaks to us here. 2) God listens to us here.
It looks like a shack perched precariously on the side of a forested hill. There is no hot water so there is no place to shower or bathe. The outhouse is just a couple steps from the front door but night-time visits still require a flashlight. When Sarah first saw “the cabin,” I’m sure she thought to herself: “What’s so special about this place?” She had heard me talk about the cabin near Lake Nojiri in Japan as if it was a slice of heaven on earth. But when she finally saw it with her own eyes I’m sure she was glad we were only going to be staying there for a few days. But that cabin is a special place. It’s where I spent a couple of weeks every summer with my family, and with friends whose families also had cabins in the area. It’s surrounded by mountains and is near villages where farmers in straw hats care for rice paddies in terraced fields. It really is a wonderful place to escape the heat and humidity of Tokyo during summer.
First time visitors to our church may wonder too what’s so special about this place we call St. Peter’s. This 40-year-old building is unique but obviously no cathedral. Yet it is special to us – not because we’ve come here so often that it’s like a second home to us. This place is special because God speaks to us here and God listens to us here.
It’s no secret that our quaint little church building does make life at St. Peter’s a little inconvenient. I’m sure you’re looking forward to the day when we won’t have to move chairs around every time we want to conduct Sunday School. But even if we worshipped in a building as grand as Solomon’s temple, what would make that space special is not the architecture but what happens within the walls of that building. That truth is brought out by Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. Although the temple had taken seven years to build and was four and a half stories tall with many parts of it covered in gold, Solomon didn’t boast about those things. Instead he noted that what made that place special was God’s presence. Solomon prayed, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there’” (1 Kings 8:27b-29a).
God had promised to place his name on the temple and that’s what made it special. It’s not unlike how the name of a celebrity like Don Cherry can turn an ordinary looking restaurant into a place that diners will want to go at least once to say that they’ve been to “Don Cherry’s” place. But attaching a celebrity’s name to a restaurant doesn’t automatically make the food served there very memorable. In fact the food and service at these celebrity restaurants are often disappointing. But God was going to do something better than put his name in neon lights at the temple and serve mediocre burgers; he was going to proclaim his name and daily serve up forgiveness for his people. One way this happened was through the morning and evening sacrifice when a lamb was slaughtered and its limp body hurled on to the flames of the altar piece by piece. By this God’s people were reminded of two things: how serious their sins were, and how gracious their God was that he would accept a lamb instead of a Larry or a Laura.
While we don’t conduct animal sacrifices here we do proclaim God’s name, that is, his reputation whenever we study the Bible together. We learn from the Bible how God is just. He tells us that our sins are not crumbs we can easily brush away. Instead our sins are like wine stains and God won’t put up with any such blemishes. Those sin-stains need to be removed if we want to enter heaven but only a special detergent can remove them. That detergent is Jesus’ blood. Jesus made that clear when he instituted the Lord’s Supper and said of the wine: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The Apostle Peter expanded on this truth when he wrote, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).