The Two Temples

local 15Where do you feel closest to God?  Many would answer at church.  Perhaps just as many would say in nature.  Both are wonderful places to experience God’s nearness; both places are also appropriate locations to offer God worship.  Psalm 150:1 says “Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies.” (The Message)  In one sense you could say any place is a good place to worship God, and that would certainly be true, but the two locations mentioned in Psalm 150 seem the most natural ones to me.  In special buildings dedicated for worship we can join with others in offering God our adoration and praise.  Likewise, the Creation offers all of us places where we can pause from time to time and offer our Creator the worship He deserves.

local 1John Muir once noted that “the hills and groves were God’s first temples.”  That is true.  Long before there were manmade structures for worship humans offered their worship in the midst of the Creation.  Later humans would see the need to build “houses of worship.”  These special buildings made worship more convenient but they were not built for convenience sake alone.  There was a desire to bring honor and glory to God through the buildings themselves.  Some of the world’s most beautiful structures were built for the glory of God.  Whether simple or ornate, houses of worship are generally designed so that people can turn their attention to God and offer Him praise.

Although I am a pastor who spends a lot of time inside a church building I know very well that God can be experienced and worshipped elsewhere.  I understand that firsthand.  I love worshipping with my church family in our beautiful sanctuary here in Henderson but I also find myself frequently being moved to worship “under the open skies.”  For me both “temples” are necessary.  Just as I need both of God’s Books–the Bible and Creation–to know God I need both temples, the sanctuary and the outdoors, to express my worship and praise to Him.

local 5Some don’t see going to church as being essential. Emily Dickinson famously wrote: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church, I keep it staying at Home—with a bobolink for a chorister, and an Orchard for a Dome.”  I will continue to make “going to church” an essential part of my worship experience, and would certainly encourage others to do the same, but I will also go on worshipping in the outdoors where I so frequently sense God’s presence.

I do not think there is anything wrong with this dual approach.  As I look at many of the biblical figures it seems that this was their practice too.  I would suggest that even Jesus himself modeled this approach.  He worshipped in the synagogues and Temple but it is obvious from his teachings that he did not limit his worship to these manmade structures.  The outdoors were a temple for him as well.  I think we would all benefit from taking advantage of both places for worship.   In fact, I feel passages like Psalm 150 and many others encourage us to do just that.  I plan to do so and hope you will as well.


(I took all three of the images shown above here in Henderson County.  For me places like these are also temples of worship.)