Where Heaven and Earth Meet
24but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7 (NRSV)
Do you believe in sacred spaces? I mean really, can one plot of ground or building hold unique spiritual significance? Is the top of Mount Hood a more spiritually significant place than, say, the sewer plant? Or do you believe that there is something spiritually unique about church buildings? Altars? Pulpits? Communion cups? Or perhaps you believe the opposite, that certain places are endowed with evil.
Every culture in human history has believed in sacred places. Scholars of religion refer to these sacred spaces as axis mundi, that is, a meeting place of heaven and earth. Native Americans often believed their burial grounds were invested with a spiritual aura; a place where the distance between heaven and earth was almost completely diminished. Hindus tend to believe that any statue depicting a god is inhabited in some way by that god. So to touch the statue is to touch heaven; to meet the statue is to meet the god. The Greeks and Romans erected temples where they believed the gods of the pantheon would be made available to humans. The list can go on and on. Somewhere in our bones there’s a desire to find a place that transcends the earth and affords us the possibility to meet heaven.
In Christianity there was always supposed to be one, and only one, axis mundi – Jesus Christ, Lord of heaven and earth. I’m all-in with the notion from Colossians that if you want to meet God, the only place to look is Jesus. Jesus is the final meeting place between heaven and earth. What he accomplished through his birth, his life, his cross, and his resurrection is a sealed, once for all, vindication that humans meet God through him. And this is really, really good news.
When we name a place as sacred/holy we immediately lose a part of what Christ has accomplished. So let’s say that Mount Hood is holy and the sewer plant isn’t. Well what about the guy who can’t make it to Mount Hood, but works at the sewer plant? Or if we say that there’s something special about our sanctuary, what does that mean for those who are home bound? Or have you ever heard someone say to a youth, “Don’t curse at church!” Well what does that mean? That church is holy and the rest of their life is not. So curse away in the rest of your world, because it isn’t sacred enough to worry about keeping pure. There are real and true damages we inflict when we pretend that church buildings are more sacred than homes.
Christ’s finality means the squashing of separation. If we declare that God lives somewhere, we only recreate the separations that kept the lepers and peasants out of the Holy of Holies. You can meet Jesus anywhere, anytime, in any state. Good news. You need not plane tickets, fancy clothes, money, hiking boots, smooth speech, a certain gender, prosperous family lineage, or a polished moral aptitude. You need only approach him through faith.
Let’s work hard to keep it that way.
|I often think about Jesus on the cross holding heaven in one hand and creation in the other. Not sure that is adequate atonement theology, but I find it helpful. See original image here.|
 Here’s a little context. This passage comes in the midst of a long discussion on the ancient priesthood. Priests were mediators between God and the sinful people of Israel. They were only allowed to operate as mediators at the temple in Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews is arguing that Jesus has replaced the temple system and become an eternal high priest, a gracious and final mediator between God and people.
 There was this store in Atlanta, Ga that I used to take mission teams into. It sold potions and satanic paraphernalia. The teams always told me that the place felt weird, as if they could feel the evil. I would often say, is it the place that’s evil or what people have brought into the place? Also, are you feeling evil or are you feeling fear?
 Or in Paul’s words: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15a). Or in the words of the author of Hebrews: “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:3). See also, John 1:18.
 I had this place along a trail in Indiana that I thought of as sacred. It was where I asked Abbey to be my girlfriend. I often went there to pray about difficult things, journal, or just take in the view. It did have an air of holiness to me. But it was holy to me, because of what had happened to me there, not because I thought there was anything spiritually significant about the place itself. It was special because I had met God through Jesus in that place on more than one occasion and in unique ways. It was not a portal to unknown realms; it was just a place far enough away from the hustle and bustle that I could actually connect with Jesus undistracted. My point being, if there’s anything sacred in the world it’s because of Jesus’ influence through it, not because it, in-and-of itself, is spiritually significant.
 The only separations that remain are the ones we create (i.e. sin).
 I have at least twelve more thoughts on all this that I simply don’t have time to write down. Not least of my thoughts is, maybe this will make you think that creation is unimportant. I actually think it has the potential to do the opposite, by opening up the whole globe to Christ, rather than confining him to sanctuaries. Anyhow, if it sparks questions please ask them: email@example.com.