The Sanctuary aka The Safehouse

The Sanctuary aka The Safehouse

A few weeks ago, a trip to the movies raised some internal questions for me that I thought might be worth examining.  The movie was called Safehouse, and starred Denzel Washington.  He’s been one of my favorites since he squeezed out that single tear in the 1989 movie, Glory. Friends of mine who had seen Safehouse promised me that it was full of fights, explosions, and excitement…that sounded like my kind of movie!

Something strange happened, though.  A few days before I saw it, I began to think deeply about the name of the movie.  Safehouse.  I had a sense that it would be a great movie, but that there would be much more to my experience.  I knew that I’d leave with something to wrestle with spiritually.

The story centered on a former CIA agent named Tobin Frost (Washington) who had gone rogue and become a spy.  He had evaded capture for years until he literally turned himself in to the authorities in Cape Town, South Africa.  He was trying to escape a team of men intent on killing him, and if he had not run into the embassy that day, they would have killed him.  Frost’s capture was obviously a big deal, and the plan was to transport him back to the U.S. to be prosecuted as quickly as possible. Frost was brought to something called a Safehouse run by the CIA where he could be interrogated and stored overnight.  The keeper of the Safehouse was a young, inexperienced, somewhat unstable agent who was now charged with his most important assignment ever.  The agent had great ambition, but little else that seemed to make him qualified to oversee this important event.  Whatever the case, his solitary responsibility was the safety of Frost and his successful transfer to the authorities the next day.

Flash back to earlier in the movie when Frost was being chased by the team of men who were bent on killing him…those same men, mysteriously, found out where Frost was being housed, and they attacked the Safehouse.  They launched a daring attack on the Safehouse, easily killing the highly trained team of soldiers that were supposed to transport Frost.  At the end of the attack, the young agent found himself with more responsibility than he could have imagined. He was the only one left, and he was now responsible for doing whatever it took to keep Frost alive.

That, is the great paradox of this film: a “bad guy” comes to the “safehouse” and ends up being protected by a “good guy” who puts his life and career on the line time and time again.  Sitting in the theatre, I was going through some mental gymnastics, trying to process what, if anything, that storyline meant for life and matters of faith.  The movie raised questions about good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, and justice vs. injustice.  I asked myself if Frost deserved any protection at all. Perhaps the young agent should have let Frost be killed…after all, he was a spy, right?  Isn’t that what justice calls for?

Good question. Good question, indeed!

Beyond the discussion about Frost, this movie gave me an opportunity to think about our identity as a church community.  We are not called The Safehouse, but we are The Sanctuary! Was it pure coincidence that Pastor Efrem and the founding members settled on that name? I have no doubt that the name choice was intentional, and when I look at the history of the church, it seems that we have been aspiring to live up to that name from the very beginning!

The question is how are we doing?

Lost People Found & Hurting People Helped…

Last Spring, I applied to join the staff here at The Sanctuary.  I had a clear sense that this was where I needed to come worship, learn, and serve.  A moment of clarification came during a discussion with the Executive Staff, Pastors Cecilia, Sandy, and Kevin.  I was asking about their experience in The Covenant when Pastor Sandy referenced a Covenant statement that had special meaning for her.  It went something like this:  “…that lost people would be found and hurting people would be helped.”  When those words left her lips, something within me quaked, because finally, I had words that expressed my idea of what we are called to as followers of Jesus!  In that moment, I knew that God had directed me to this place, and that God had been preparing me for this moment for many, many years before.  It was confirmation that I was not an alien and that there were others whose interest in the Christian faith extended beyond their own individual salvation.  The Sanctuary was where I wanted and needed to be!

One of my all-time favorite songs says:

“There is a sweet anointing in the sanctuary.

There is stillness in the atmosphere

O come, lay down the burdens you have carried.

For in the sanctuary, God is here.”

I have no doubt that God is present here at The Sanctuary.  Our mission and the vision around which we were founded is one that honors God.  The question before us is simple: How will we live this all out?

  • Will we be a safe place where the spiritually lost can find their way to the cross?
  • Will hurting people be able to find help, even help that has evaded them for years?
  • Will we be a safe place for people to wrestle with questions around their faith and its relevance for life today?
  • Will we freely extend grace to even the most “unworthy” among us or will there be a cost for something that Christ has already purchased?
  • Will anyone who needs it find refuge, safety, love, and a fresh start?

My prayer for us as a church is that we would live up to the ever-present challenge that is our name…”For in The Sanctuary, God is Here!”  


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