Yesterday, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago (Metropolitan Cathedral) in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. It is a beautiful cathedral that went under construction in 1748, and was completed by 1800. Like most cathedrals I’ve visited, it was impressive to say the least. The ornate and detailed beauty portrays a craftsmanship that is both skillful and thoughtful. It has been said that great cathedrals were built so as to proclaim the glory of God; meant to point to something greater and to leave those who enter its doors humbled at the bigness of God and the smallness of man. In medieval times, grand cathedrals that seemingly reached to the heavens and dwarfed even royal castles, spoke of the dominant role of religion. Although religion was prominent, it seemed that the manifest presence of God wasn’t. During what is often called “The Dark Ages,” a common language Bible was suppressed, yet as in every period of history, God’s truth and those who proclaimed it continued in their faithful witness of Christ and the hope of the gospel. God’s presence was still active and moving in the lives of those who faithfully sought after God, men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale. There is much more I could say about this time in history, but maybe for another day and another entry.
As I stood in the midst of Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago, appreciating the grandeur and beauty, God brought to mind a couple of passages of Scripture: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool; what is the house that you would build for Me, and what is the place of My rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.’” Isaiah 66:1-2
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man . . .” Acts 17:24
This cathedral, as inspiring and beautiful as it was, was just a building. Looking around at the tourists who were more often looking through the screen of their camera phone than they were with their eyes (I at times being one of them), I saw others who were there to pray to the saints; statues that, to many, seemed to offer hope and life. Sadly, the truth is they do not. There is only one, Jesus Christ, who offers hope, and life, and the forgiveness of sin so that we might truly be saved, and He does not live in temples made by man.
A building with no life inside is just an empty shell. It is just as true for churches in America, or anywhere else for that matter, as it is for the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. And, truthfully, a person’s life is no different. What matters more than beautiful edifices and ornate decor of cathedrals or even the lives of those who pursue and hide behind the edifice and decor of all that our culture exalts, yet is empty, is the wonder, and mystery, and beauty of God’s glorious presence in the temple of we who are created in and bear the image of God.
What a humbling thought that cathedrals, churches, and temples don’t even measure up to footstool status. The God who created all things makes heaven His throne, and the earth is just the place He rests His feet. Yet this same God, who is unequal and unrivaled, because of His unfathomable love for us and His overwhelming grace towards us, came to us so that we might be saved and enter into a relationship with God. And if that were not enough, He has placed within us the fullness of His presence by His Spirit so that we might display the glory of Christ.
Cathedrals are beautiful and church buildings are important, but the majesty and presence of the exalted King Jesus resides in all who have placed their faith in Him. May our lives proclaim the glory of God. May the ancient truths of God’s word be reflected in our daily lives. And may the world will be in awe of the Christ who dwells in us.