“Members Only.” I was a golf caddy for four years during high school and college, and each day as I arrived at work I was greeted by a number of signs with that message on them. I always wondered, what was behind those doors? What was so special in the member’s only space? Finally in my last summer caddying, I was called to enter a member’s only space to receive my tip from a golfer who had no interest in walking back outside in the pouring rain. I remember getting ready to walk through the doors with such excitement and wonder. I had been told what the other side was like. I had read books and seen movies that depict it but now I was going to get a chance to experience it first hand.
Country clubs were not the first to come up with the idea of a “member’s only” space. Ancient Jewish culture had two clear members’ only spaces. First was in the temple. There was an area in the middle of the temple that had a veil covering the entrance that was called the Holy of Holies, which could only be entered by a selected priest once a year. Yet when Jesus died on the cross we read in scripture, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:37-38, TNIV) The second “member’s only” space were a system of roads that only could be used by priests and powerful political figures. We read in Isaiah 35 about these roads that when Jesus comes, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way…But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued.” (Isaiah 35:8-10, TNIV)
In both of these passages the message is similar; Jesus’ coming will signal a change in how we engage God. Before Jesus only a select few priests would have the opportunity to engage God closely at the temple. When the temple veil is torn, symbolizing Jesus’ death clearing a path so that God’s people have and can continue to directly engage God. Isaiah’s passage lays out a vision of a special road that is made for all of God’s people, not just the elite or royalty to travel to meet God.
Each day people drive past churches all across America and see these little “member’s only” signs. They see it on the church building, the front doors, and the people who worship inside. There are many who need to be at church, and some who even desire to come here and spend time with God and others, but fear that they don’t belong because this is a “member’s only” zone. We could tell them that it is not the case, but our examples today from scripture are not about rationally convincing people of a new reality. Instead both our passages are showing and engaging people in that new reality, inviting them to come and meet God in a real and personal way. So this Holiday season, perhaps you will invite someone to come and meet God, and to experience first hand that this is not a “member’s only” zone, but rather a place where all who desire to meet God are welcomed and loved.