The last few days have been quite eventful. It began with our first meeting with others from two cities in a long journey in a vocational learning community about faith, work, and economics. And last night it culminated in our intentional community in our household. It was breakfast night. There was bacon involved. A great moment in itself.
The content involved in the vocational community was rich indeed but that subject will wait for another day. I was reminded of the need to ask the wise questions, the harder questions, the questions you can’t answer quickly. And I would add ‘those questions you can’t answer alone.’ And for that reason I have to pause because some questions I know the right people who need to be involved but for whatever reason the timing is never right.
What was clearly demonstrated first and summarized by last night was the notion of the sacred. That word alone sends liturgical tingles up most peoples spines and draws our attention to artifacts and specific scheduled times usually between 10:45-Noon on Sundays. Sacred was the church mother telling you not to touch the altar or walk in front of it ‘during service’ as a child [or sit in the church mother row.] It is the ‘you have to hold it’ during the sacred moments of service, the doxology or hymn of praise, or deacons prayer. It was the red punch with the ice cream ring for some auxiliary Sunday. Sacred was confined to the architecture (or ice cream) made from creation set apart for religious practices. Sacred is where we said God was.
In most cases the argument seems to be more both/and and not either/or. We should most certainly see the sacred in our corporate worship or in the ordinances we follow as disciples. But also those sacred moments, those set apart moments wherever else God is involved. Our need is to recognize them not simply compare moments to ‘good church’ and conclude that they are not sacred.
After bacon and pancakes our household community found Christine Pohl’s words in her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition especially helpful:
They “view hospitality as a sacred practice and God is especially present in guest/host relationships.”
Hospitality as sacred? It is only a problem when we relegate God to certain places and times. Funny how that conclusion immediately conflicts the nature of Him being gracious. Again I am reminded ‘if you can merit it, then He cannot be gracious.’ And if it is expected or not expected from Him, then you are saying He does not have to be gracious.
I think the other component it addresses is the nature of disciplines. But in our hyper individualistic world our disciplines leave no room for tension of the word ‘and.’ Love the lord your God AND [meaning ‘and also‘ not really ‘and then‘] your neighbor. I like the discipline of studying the bible, fasting and prayer. But I am beginning to ask myself how is my discipline of hospitality (gk ‘welcoming the stranger’ ) or bearing one another’s burdens of speaking psalms and hymns to one another? Do I have scheduled ‘living plans’ like the reading plans my phone buzzes at me to read? Do I feel the need to ask someone for accountability to check on how I’m divesting of my comfort to others so they may be comforted with the same comfort I have received from God? Have I seen my need to do the things Jesus did through four books called the Gospel and not simply devote my time to not doing things I shouldn’t?
Sacred moments carry different weight. To conclude that they are only relegated to our facadal constructions of liturgical moments are only valid if you can conclude ‘that the earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof’ is not true. This is indeed our Fathers world. I was reminded of this twice during our vocational community when we paused and left a liturgical blessing on the restaurant and another business we visited to remind these Christian owners that their work is work that matters and is valued by God.
And perhaps ‘pause’ will be the discipline for now with respect to the sacred. It may not be corporate worship. It may not be singing hymns and the call and response. But the better question may be ‘is this moment set apart?’ The heinous humiliation of a blood-stained cross is not clean and liturgical, but it was certainly set apart. Two disciples walking down a road concluded ‘did not our hearts burn’ had nothing to do with indigestion. I have tried to as best I could (although not as well as my parents have impressed upon me) to pause in moments to express in some words what value people are when they cross your path. To put words to the meaning of the moment. I think they have always done this better and perhaps it is because I see how those people they saw in their lives care so deeply for them. I have tried to hold on to those moments too, yet with little success. What I have found in the last few days has broadened the perspective in spite of that. Pausing is necessary to leave room to welcome God for what He may set apart. Sacred may be right under our nose.