Sacred time. Sacred Space.
Jacob declared of Bethel, where God renewed the promise he had made to Abraham:
"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Perhaps we don’t appreciate the sacred as much as we should. Everything and everyplace is so ordinary to us.
One of my favorite stories is about representatives of the Native American community that were constantly showing up at hearings and objecting to opening up more forest land with logging roads.
“This land is sacred to my people”, they would declare at each and every hearing.
“Is there any place that is not sacred to you and your people?” one logging company executive finally replied in exasperation.
“Now, Sir, you are finally beginning to understand my people”, was the response.
I’m thinking about the sacred these days.
We have our sanctuaries. And in time they become sacred to us. The stairs at the entry are visibly worn from the flow of people in and out for generations.
When we traveled to Russia we were able to visit the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Novgorod which has been a place of worship throughout its 1,000 year history. It is so ancient there are archeological digs within the sanctuary, revealing the original floor.
As is typical, the icons painted on the walls follow a progression from the earth below to the heavens above. One cannot stand in such a place without having one’s head bend backward as your eyes are drawn up to the heavenly scenes above.
I think also of the little Egland Lutheran Church out on the prairie of NE South Dakota, near the farm of our family.
There, surrounding the church is the cemetery. There we laid to rest one family member after another.
Grandma Louise played organ in that church for decades. How many times “Holy, Holy, Holy” welcomed people to worship one can never know, but it’s as though the walls themselves could sing the song.
“This is the gate of heaven.”
My desk now sits in our living room, having been moved from its former place as we remodeled my office to make a bedroom for Dad.
And this morning, as I write, both Mom and Dad’s ashes are in the urn on my desk, waiting to be transported back to Kalispell, and then to the cemetery in Polson.
I am anticipating moving my desk back to where it used to be, and reclaiming that room as my office.
And yet it has changed.
It has become a sacred space, for there, right where my desk will stand, my Father died.
“This is the gate of heaven.”
There Dad came face to face with his Savior, and was drawn from this earth into the heavens above.
And the Divine light will always cast a shadow on the walls.
Sacred Time. Sacred Space.
The question was raised about whether we should scatter some of Mom and Dad’s ashes at their lake place in Elmo, MT. I objected.
My concern is that the future of the lake place is still up in the air, and should we have to sell it, it will be much easier if it is not the place where our parent’s ashes are scattered.
Scattering the ashes creates a sacred space.
The irony is that my own home has become such a sacred space.
I anticipate the move back into that space in our home.
There I will study the word. Sermons will be written. And through the Word, Jesus’ face will be revealed.
There in that space that Dad saw Jesus face to face, I too will encounter my Savior.
There Angels will ascend and descend on the stairway to heaven, messengers speaking the Divine Word into our ordinary world.
That place where I have often wrestled with God through times of depression and despair will now be a sanctuary.
No, I don’t plan on erecting an altar there. There are other places for that.
But I will remember.
I will remember that for one brief but shining moment, it was there that my Father saw the face of God.
I find myself wondering about the future.
Will one day a bed be made there again, only this time for me as I take my final breaths on this earth?
Only time will tell.
For now the Sacred will be found in the ordinary.
A few feet away from that holy space where Dad died, is our dining table.
There we break bread together.
There we gather with family and friends.
There we teach our grandson to pray.
And there amid all that ordinary stuff, we encounter the hidden God.
And the angels sing “Holy, Holy, Holy!”