Monday, January 21, 2013

Sacred Space

Today, we begin the third week of our one-year Bible blitz.  Since I invited the folks in my congregation to read the Bible through in a year with me, I've been encouraged by their stories about the way the Bible has touched their lives.  I hope you've been enjoying God's Word as much as we have.  You can find the year's schedule that we're using by going to  The schedule for week three is as follows:

Week 3
  • Genesis 28-29; Mark 11
  • Gen 30-31; Mark 12; Psalm 11
  • Gen 32-34; Mark 13; Psalm 145
  • Gen 35-37; Mark 14; Psalm 12
  • Gen 38-40; Mark 15
As I read the stories in Genesis and Mark, I'm impressed by the importance of sacred space.  In my January 14 post, I said that I'd be writing soon about creating sacred space, and I featured a short video by Ginger Ciminello about her special place that she has in her house, where she has her quiet time.  You may ask, "If heaven is God's throne and earth is God's footstool (Acts 7:49), then isn't every place holy ground?"  Of course it is--but throughout the Bible we see certain spots being designated as holy sites.  We refer to Israel as "The Holy Land," separating it from the rest of the world as sacred space.  In the Holy Land, there were many sacred places such as Bethel, the Mount of Olives, the Temple in Jerusalem--just to name a few.  Your sacred spaces are just as important to you as these were to ancient people.  I hope you'll cultivate a sense of sacred space in your life.

Even before Jacob goes to Luz, that place is known as somewhere people could inquire of God.  It's no accident that Jacob makes his way there--his grandfather had also gone there to call on the Lord (Genesis 13:4).  Abraham had built an altar in this place.  Legend had it that if you slept in that spot, with your head on a stone from that holy ground, that God would give you divine dreams--so it makes sense that for Jacob to go there when he needs to hear from the Lord.  He follows tradition, and sleeps with a stone for his pillow (perhaps one of the stones from the altar built by his grandfather).  God indeed gives him a dream, and makes a covenant with him.

In order to commemorate this event, Jacob erects a stone monument and pours holy oil on top of it, naming the place Bethel, which means, House of God.  For centuries to come, people would be able to return to this spot and see where angels had ascended and descended a stairway to heaven, and where their ancestor had renewed his commitment to the Lord.

In our New Testament passage, we read about another sacred site, just ten miles south of Bethel, in Jerusalem.  Jesus goes to the Temple and finds the sanctuary blocked off by vendors who create such a traffic jam that they keep the people from actual worship.  Incensed by this affront to His Father's house, Jesus drives the merchants and money changers out of the Temple, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers (Mark 11:17).”  Jesus knows the importance of worship, and of prayer.  He knows that for people to have a good spiritual life, they need a holy place where they you can go to feel peaceful and secure and meet with God.  You've got to guard these sacred places jealously--because they set the stage for you to have an experience with the Lord.

For every believer, church is one of those sacred places.  Sanctuaries and Sunday school rooms, pastor's offices where you've received counseling, cemeteries and fellowship halls--these are all places where Christians can have an experience of God.  But equally important are the sacred spaces you carve out in your home, for your daily quiet time with the Lord.  You may have a favorite armchair or porch swing.  You might have a special table where you keep all your devotional items like your Bible, pens and a journal, a candle or incense you burn when you pray, anointing oil, or similar things.  I know Christian believers who have adopted the practice of praying beneath a prayer shawl, or TallitMaybe you like to play quiet instrumental music while you meditate on God's Word.  All these things give you a sense of sacred time and space, and make it easier to get into an attitude of prayer.  Being in a mood where you're receptive to God makes it more likely that you'll be listening to what God has to say to you during your prayer time.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."  Whether you have a whole room dedicated to prayer or not, take the time to make a sacred place somewhere in your house or in your yard.  Make that the place where you go on a regular basis to meet with the Lord.  As Jacob did, decorate it, design it, and make it special.  Then, as Jesus did, guard it closely.  Because for you, it is the "house of God."

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