Sacred Space is created when the divine intersects with our present. It is the time and place where we encounter the presence of the creator. It is where our spirit comes alive as we experience the Life and Light of the world.
We hold these times, experiences, and places in reverence as we long for the moments of connection with the Almighty again. Our hearts agree with the words of David, ‘A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!’ (Psalm 84:10a).
In my lifetime I have had the privilege to visit many of the “Sacred Spaces’ people have created to give honour to these moments. Places made with such intent they point us to be in Awe of the one it was made for. These places are ‘Holy Places’. This infers they have been set apart for worship of Christ, and to point people to Him.
I absolutely love that our world, which is full of beauty, has these spaces. So many have given their skill, talent, and lives to honour what God has done in their lives. These spaces are a reminder of the lives of those who went before us, who also encountered His presence.
In the diversity of creation and His Church there are other expressions of what Sacred Space is. There has always been a longing inside me to see something else, but I never had a picture of what it looked like. I kept seeing glimpses of it, but could never fully articulation what it was.
However, over the past years I feel like my entire world and thought process has been turned upside down by one question, ‘What would it look like if the Kingdom of God (As we are praying for) came to Earth, as it is in Heaven.’
When the angels of heaven had the opportunity to announce the Messiah had arrived they started with the shepherds. It is no accident that Jesus, when explaining what the Kingdom of God looked like, would use imagery of the sheep and the shepherds.
One day Jesus said, ‘I am the Gate’. Too many that seems like an obvious description, as faith in Jesus is the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. However, to the shepherds this story meant so much more. At the time, across the countryside shepherds would build a circular wall. At night they would gather the sheep and lead them in. It was here they would be safe. It was here they could find rest.
In this wall there would be one opening. In this space the gate was not a thing. The gate was a person. It was the shepherd. The shepherd did not allow things in that could hurt or kill the sheep. The shepherd protected the sheep.
Today, in Bouctouche NB you can visit the Irving Chapel. It is a small church built on an estate. Surrounding the Chapel is a small stone wall, with one opening. This imagery of a small wall has been used before to symbolize another kind of ‘Sacred Space’.
Whether, all truth, or some folklore mixed in, the story of St Patrick draws a different picture of what ‘Sacred Space’ is. According to these stories a place(s) he ministered also had this wall. It was a to be a visible divider / sign.
Once you entered through the gate, this place became where you would get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God in action. It you were hungry, you would be fed. If you were naked, you would be clothed. If you were tired, you could find rest. If you were alone, you were invited to the table.
Today when I think about the ‘Spaces’ that God has blessed us with, I see them differently. In some places I see them being the thing that drains our resources, and leaves nothing for ministry. Our spaces can be what is causing us to live our faith in one space, and not among our neighbours and community. Our spaces can be where we have Light shows for those already in the Light. However, I also know God has used the ‘Space’ we have. Many of us are here today because of the “Spaces’ we were invited into.
Today here are a few of the glimpses I believe make up the picture of what ‘Sacred Space’ now means to me.
(1) It is Holy. Our ‘Space’ must be set apart for the ‘Purposes’ of God. There are clear messages of ‘Who’ Jesus said He has a focus on. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.’ Luke 4:18.
This is only one of many scriptures on who Jesus said He had a leaning towards. So how much of our ‘Space’ reflects the leanings of Jesus? For me for our space to be ‘Holy’ it must be set apart for those Jesus told us to go to.
(2) Our ‘Space’ is where we ‘Serve’. ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Matthew 20:28. Our ‘Space’ is where we ministry to others, not just attend services.
We have to ask again, how much of our ‘Space’ is designed to serve others?
(3) We are NOT the Center of our Space. This could be the point we take a drastic turn. Almost all present use of Church ‘Space’ revolves around building up the Body of Christ so they can go minister in the world. This is a valid ministry model, but it is just one. There is another option.
We can let those Jesus has called us to become the center of our space. What if what we had was not designed for ‘Us’. What if the center of all God has blessed us with – our time, ministry, talents, and even our ‘Space’, was given to the lost, broken, addicted, needy, and more.
This concept at first may seems too far to go. However, to be clear there is no scriptures instructing us to build buildings. Our buildings can become part of the Function of our ministry for the better, or worse. There are many scripture talking about our need to minister to those just mentioned.
Our spaces can become places that hold many types of worship services. Some where we sing and ones where we live this out, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40
(4) It is where we give Value. The poor, outcast, broken were never given Jesus’ leftovers. They became the centre of the story. This story has so much relevance.
‘On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. 7 The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
8 But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. 9 Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.’ Luke 6:6-11
Many times when Jesus healed someone he told them not to make a scene. This day Jesus did something different. He asked the man who was deformed to stand before them all. This man represents those who feel broken because of his sin, our perhaps his parents. He has lived on the outside, dejected, and rejected by those arguing if ministry to him on the Sabbath is the right thing to do.
Jesus, though, makes him the center of this story. To Jesus, this man finding healing and freedom, was more important than all the religious arguments on how and when this man could have a God encounter.
Our ‘Space’ needs to be where people find blessing beyond their own value of themselves.
Blessing is the open door to transformation.
Ministering to the lost is always more important than arguments.
(5) Our ‘Space’ is where we model what the Kingdom of God looks like. My prayer for my Church Space, my Home Space, and my Personal Space is that it is where people get glimpses of the Kingdom of God.
It it where kids and youth who are orphans (motherless, fatherless, or neglected) find family.
It is where we model what ‘safe’ is, and what a home can be.
It is where those who are hungry have a meal together.
It is where we invite everyone to come to the table.
You see many years ago I asked the question, ‘What would it look like if the Kingdom of God (As we are praying for) came to Earth, as it is in Heaven?’
In my setting it was obvious. I am sure in your community you would have answers which may or may not look like mine. You see I live in a community with some of the worse alcohol, addictions, and poverty rates in the nation. I live in the community where ‘Cottonland’ was filmed (a Canadian Story about how opioids has destroyed communities). In the end I could only begin to tell the stories of the level of brokenness.
So for me when I asked the question about what would it look like, the answer was this.
Today, when I think about the ‘Spaces’ we have been blessed with, they have to be dedicated to community transformation which leads to ‘Freedom’.
Here is the good news. I believe at the heart of every Church is a desire to see people experience Jesus. We have spent our lives trying to figure out how to connect to those outside the Church. This is the beautiful part of giving your space away and serving. When you give your space to your community, your community comes to you.