Sacred Spaces: The Wooden Pews

Our good friend Adam Borneman recently introduced me to a podcast entitled Strangely Warmed on the Crackers and Grape Juice website. A recent episode included a discussion of the lectionaries readings for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost. Intriguing stuff, I know, but this was a timely episode for me as I have been wrestling with how to write about how wooden pews remind us of the Gospel of Christ.

Full disclosure—I have never overheard anyone ever gleefully rejoice in getting to sit in a wooden pew for an hour on Sunday. Instead, I’m pretty sure that several of our choir members joined the choir so they wouldn’t have to sit on wooden pews. They have luxurious, padded chairs in the choir loft, y’all! Nevertheless, the wooden pew communicates an important truth about God’s salvation in Jesus. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, Peter describes our salvation in Christ by reminding us of Noah and his ark. “They formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21).” God brought his people safely through the waters in the ark. A wooden structure to get us safely through life.

This brings me to Borneman’s recommendation of the podcast mentioned above. This particular episode was about the story of Moses in Exodus 1:8-2:10. I quickly realized as I listened to the podcast that I had missed something incredible about the birth and rescue of baby Moses. When Moses was born, his mother made a basket of bulrushes, or reeds, daubed it in bitumen and pitch, and placed him in the river so that he would survive Pharaoh’s edict requiring all Hebrew newborn baby boys to be thrown into the Nile to die. Moses’s mother courageously constructs a tiny ark to save her child. Pharaoh’s daughter then finds baby boy, takes him as her own, and names him Moses, which means “drawn out of water”. Rev. Drew Colby on the podcast then proceeded to blow my mind as he connected some dots that I am ashamed to not have connected myself. He connects the ark of Noah, the tiny little baby basket boat of Moses, the manger of Jesus, and the Church of Jesus Christ as the vessels that God places his children into in order for them to be brought through the chaotic waters of life into the eternal presence of his Kingdom! Mind. Blown.

How excited should we be to enter the sanctuary each Sunday and take our seat within a wooden pew next to brothers and sister in Christ and direct our attention to the Gospel proclaimed from the wooden pulpit? How overwhelmed should we be to know we were drawn from the waters of a wooden baptismal font? How thankful should we be when we eat bread and drink wine from atop a wooden table? Brothers and sisters, when we experience these realities, we are experiencing the same type of providence and loving-kindness that Noah, Moses, Jesus, and all the other people of the Gospel promise that has come from being grafted into the family of God. Let us never neglect the blessing of joining together with the communion of saints and truly rejoice! All praise, glory, and honor to our God who saves us from the chaotic waters of life! Amen.

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