The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “sanctuary” as:
· a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
· the protection that is provided by a safe place
· the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held
Most churches have sanctuaries, but churches are not always a sanctuary. In many ways, though, God calls the church to be a sanctuary. Consider the following:
· “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you” (Leviticus 25:35-36).
· “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7).
· “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Psalm 82:3).
· “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).
· “And one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:16)
Throughout history, Christian’s have provided sanctuary in different ways to people in need of protection, shelter, and a safe place. For example, several years ago while on a mission trip, a Christian family in the Czech Republic told me a moving account of how their parents provided sanctuary to a Jewish family during the Nazi regime. Through this generous act of hospitality, they sheltered and protected an entire family. This is just one of countless ways the Body of Christ has heeded Jesus’ call to help the less fortunate (Matthew 25:34-40).
Later this month, Trinity will begin providing sanctuary to the homeless through the new Family Promise Network of Genesee County. The Family Promise Network has been in existence for over 20 years. Today, 180,000 volunteers in 6,000 churches provide sanctuary within church buildings to guests in need of of shelter. The Network is just getting established in Genesee County. Trinity will be one of the first churches to take a turn as our Host Week is scheduled for the week of March 23.
Since our Council first considered this ministry one year ago, a great deal of time and energy has been invested preparing for the families we will serve. I would especially like to thank all who have worked so hard in these preparations. Dozens of meetings have been attended; scores of phone calls have been dialed; and so many miles have been traveled to prepare Trinity to provide sanctuary for others in their time of need.
I hope that you are inspired as I am by the by the ministry opportunities that God is putting before us through Family Promise. It is good to see the church being the Church. It is truly heartwarming to see the Church being a sanctuary as well as having a sanctuary.[The above article, “The Church As Sanctuary” was also published in the March 2014 Trinity Gram.]