Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seeking Sacred Spaces

Sunrise in Seabrook, TX
Curiously, sacred spaces are geographically specific though anything but bound.

Where are the sacred spaces on your journey?  The sanctuary where I was baptized and spent many a childhood morning in worship.  The woods of church camp where I spent summers as camper, counselor and director.  The walk from my dorm to the church I attended in college.  The Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, Australia where I began my seminary studies.  The pulpits I have been honored to fill during my ministry, from White Oak to Edwardsville.  

I have more sacred spaces than I expected.  I’ll not bore you with the comprehensive list.

What are the important features of your sacred spaces?

Experience of faith community in that place at that time?  The spot of a great awakening in your soul, heart, mind?  Geographic context which cradled the creative creature that is you?  A glimpse of God incarnate in your midst?  Holy meets holly bush?

Sacred spaces are those places where we are more likely to experience the holy and profound.  

Fascinating how often in the Bible that God calls us to attend to sacred spaces.  Asking us to build a simple altar of stone or an elaborate temple or a nomadic tent scene - God invites us to participate in creating sacred spaces.  

Equally fascinating how rarely we are able to manufacture sacred space.  Ever try to force the moment?  Attempt to compel God to show up or your own soul to listen?  Maybe it is that not every location fits your journey?  Maybe God wants to meet you in the places where you can be most present with God?  

There are amazing private sacred spaces!  Aren’t most communal?  Even the hermit like places include the large community in prayer and hope.  We chose the communal places for our special sacred moments - weddings, funerals, baptisms, baby dedications, etc.  

The picture is of one of a sacred space found during my sabbatical in July 2014.  Seabrook, a suburb of Houston, TX.  Sipping hot tea in the humidity and watching the sunrise over the gulf before beginning my trek north to Illinois.  Having just spent the week in silent retreat and a day in conversation with my good friend, Michael Dunn, I was blessed to pause.  I thought of those fishermen who dropped their nets to follow Jesus.  I thought of those I knew who made it possible for me to have sabbatical.  Mostly, I felt the warmth of the sun and listened to God.  

May you find many sacred spaces on your journey and share them well with our fellow travelers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What makes you "dirty"?

What makes you “bad”?  What makes you “unclean”?

Have you read Matthew 15:1-20?  It was part of the reading for this past Sunday but my sermon focused on Matthew 15:21-28 and the Canaanite Woman.  You can find that sermon here … http://youtu.be/IHF4IvQStCg

I want to say something about the beginning of chapter 15 that there was simply not time to say in the sermon.

Maybe it is helpful to ask, what makes other people “bad” or “unclean”?  Our neighbor, stranger, etc.  

My son and I spent some time in New York City this summer.  We stayed in a hotel at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and rode the subway all over Manhattan.  I vividly recall a moment when I was looking at those in the subway car with us.  There were couples fighting, spoiled children, people who looked homeless, individuals I kept an eye on for safety, etc.  Is that guy a pimp for the woman with bruises next to him?  Why is that guy sitting when that woman is standing?  I was beginning to feel unclean just being in the same subway car as these people.  It was disturbing.

Then I smiled.  
I wanted to share my smile with every person in that subway car for one very important reason.

I had just heard a small voice say to me that God loved each person on that subway car.  
Even me, the judgmental, middle-class, educated, divorced Dad lucky enough to be on a trip with his son, was loved by God.

Then I noticed the woman with bruises and how tender the guy was in making certain she was seated first, helping her up when they departed … rather the gentleman.  No clue about the bruises.

And I wondered, if I had time - would not all these folks have redeeming qualities?

Of course - they are creations of God and that makes them intrinsically redeemable.

I felt unclean and bad for being in the same space with these people who were different than me.  What MADE me unclean and bad was my judgement of them, God’s children.  What made me even more unclean was that my judgement of others became an obstacle of accepting my own status as redeemable.  My judgement stood between me and the gift of grace.

Jesus says it so much better … what defiles is what comes from the heart.  What God makes cannot defile you.

Set yourself free …. judge not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recommended Reading

I love to laugh!  It just plain feels great to laugh!  When I find a book that both inspires my faith and compels my soul to laugh, I want to recommend it.

Jonathan Acuff was a keynote speaker at the church camp I attended with our youth group this past June.  I found him to be an engaging speaker, so I bought one of his books “Stuff Christians Like”.  This book is an easy read, when you can read through the laughter.

Acuff was raised in a different part of the Christian tradition than I.  Not everything he discusses is exactly in my experience of church.  However, his insightful and critical humor is full of hope and joy.  At the conclusion, I celebrated his love of the church and found my own love of the church to be increased.