Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Humble Sanctuary (Peter A. Black)

A red-brick building sits atop a small hill, its lines clean and true. A graceful square tower rises, affording the place some prominence. That prominence however, is somewhat diminished, since trees on either side of the lot, while much younger than the building, are now mature and challenge the tower in reaching towards the sky.

It was the first time I’d ever set eyes on that building. Once I’d parked the car I stepped out and glanced around, advanced toward the white-painted door then pressed the latch and pulled the handle. The door opened just like I’d been told it should.
This admitted me into a small vestibule. Several strides took me into the auditorium where I stood on a red runner. The interior is plain and its dark brown furnishings old and modest.
I could further describe this rural church building and its interior – it dates well back into the 1800s, but there’s nothing remarkable about it. Oh, I had nostalgic moments when seeing the old pump organ, yet didn’t indulge my strong inclination to check it out as to whether it was in playing condition. Who was I to touch? And there was no one to ask.
A second visit had me overcoming that resistance, so I briefly tried the instrument and discovered, not surprisingly, that it is unplayable; it’s in need of considerable restoration. How I would love to tackle that job myself. Thirty-eight years have passed since I restored a vintage pump organ. That project turned out well, and I’m sure this one could again be made to sing God’s praises.

Since that first visit I’ve occasionally retreated to that place to read and pray and meditate. Within its walls I’ve also sketched out rough notes for sermons, when preparing for upcoming pulpit supply ministry stints. Initial ideas for two newspaper articles were conceived there, too. 
That humble Anglican sanctuary, situated a short country drive from where I live, no longer hosts regular services, but is maintained by faithful souls whose heritage reaches back generations, as indicated by memorial stones in the adjacent cemetery. Two services, held annually, garner donations to help provide funds for maintenance.
The Church of Jesus Christ, however, is not a material building. It is comprised of people redeemed through the sacrifice of Himself that He made on the cross twenty centuries ago – people who appropriate in faith what was accomplished for them there.
The apostle Peter 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 but with the precious blood of Christ . . .”; “. . . like living stones, [you] are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:5; bold font added).
Also, Paul wrote, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:24). Elsewhere he explains that as Christian Believers our lives are temples of the Holy Spirit.

The following beloved hymn speaks to that truth:

There is a Place of Quiet Rest

There is a place of quiet rest
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet
Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace
Near to the heart of God.

(by Cleland B/ McAfee, 1906 PD)

Nevertheless, places dedicated to the worship and service of God, such as that humble ‘not-quite-abandoned’ country edifice, afford sanctuary – space for spiritual retreat. I’m grateful for this place of quiet sanctuary, where I can temporarily escape to raise my gaze Godward, away from clamouring distractions, to focus on Him.

The above piece was adapted from an article in Black's weekly column, P-Pep! published in The Watford Guide-Advocate, July 23, 2015.
Peter's second book is a compilation of inspirational articles on a variety of themes from his weekly column. These are interspersed with brief expressions intended to encourage. Ebook edition is now available through Amazon.
ISBN: 978-0-9920074-2-3 (Angel Hope Publishing)
Peter's first book: “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. The book has found a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults.Black's inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.



David Kitz said...

Beautiful, Peter. Just beautiful.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter - I found this very touching. You made me imagine myself in that cool sanctuary meditating on God's grace. Also, that hymn, Near to the Heart of God, is near and dear to my heart. When I awoke one morning, a couple of days after surgery, wounded and weak, that hymn rushed into my mind and for many days afterward, it comforted and strengthened me. What blessed words!

Peter Black said...

David and Rose, thank you for your gracious thoughts. Rose, I appreciate you sharing your poignant experience with that beloved hymn. It is one of my favourites too, and I resort to it often. ~~+~~

Susan Harris said...

Going back to the place where God speaks so clearly keeps our mission on course. Thanks for a lovely post, Peter.

Glynis said...

Well I was surely singing at the end! Love that hymn. And what a tranquil moment you shared, Peter. How positively inspiring that must be to feel inspired as you clutch pen and paper. We need to meditate on the Word more in this manner. 'Tis certainly a treasure of a place you have found in this little church.

Peter Black said...

Thank you, Susan and Glynis.
Our need for finding sanctuary and emotional and spiritual rest has become a significant theme in my mind and heart over the years. I see this as truth rooted in Scripture and redemption, and as available in Christ. It is also illustrated and demonstrated through life experience. ~~+~~

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