You don’t have to go to Washington, D.C., to see them. They are in your city, every small town and standing starkly alone in the countryside. I am referring to foreign embassies called churches or synagogues. Officially, an embassy is the residence of another country’s ambassador and is a place of refuge for that country’s citizens. These embassies can be as grand as miniature gothic cathedrals or as simple as oblong, metal buildings identified by steeples atop their roofs.
Every steeple rising above the rooftops of the stores, businesses and homes of our secular world points skyward to that world or higher power the embassy represents. International law grants to embassies the “right of asylum” to those seeking protection from local authorities. Churches once also did the same by granting “sanctuary,” place of refuge inside them for anyone threatened by public injustice or private vengeance. In medieval times hanging from the outside walls of some churches were large iron rings that granted “sanctuary” to those who grabbed hold of them when unable to get physically inside the church. Churches today grant refuge from a troubled world where some come weekly and others only on festive holidays. These otherworldly yet common structures also symbolized the Wall of Separation between the secular and the sacred worlds.
The Teacher of Galilee announced Great News: There is no wall between the worldly and the holy—they are simultaneously one. He continuously taught: “The Kingdom, the Age, the Presence of God is now here in your midst.” For his first followers this incredible Good News was easier to embrace than it is for us today who identify ourselves as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics or Baptists, instead of as his followers.
For two millenniums the Kingdom has been “churchified,” so for anything today to be holy it must be totally other than what is worldly. Yet the Teacher said, “Friends, the world is homogenized! God’s Presence is no longer restricted to within the Temple, it’s everywhere and in everyone! No longer are religious rituals required to transform the profane into the holy for every human act is holy.” His early followers strove to live a homogenized spirituality finding their work, meals, loving and bodily pleasures to be holy. So let the next church you see ask you, “Are you a fan, devotee, believer…or a follower of the Teacher of Galilee?”
Believers worship the Teacher. Followers try to live in that homogenized world he announced. Test repeatedly who you are by asking yourself on a bustlingly noisy street corner if you feel God’s presence? Do your senses distinguish the world around you to be so saturated with the Divine Mystery that it feels the same as being in church? If you do, rejoice because you are one of his homogeneous followers.