When I first thought about this subject matter I couldn’t really get a hold of it.
Isn’t every space that exists a sacred space?
Hasn’t God created everything, making it so?
And then when I sat down to think about it some more, an image came to me. And it led me to see what I really believe about sacred spaces.
Now right off the bat, there really is a difference between personal sacred spaces and collective ones.
I can remember times standing at the top of mountains and looking out and feeling like I was standing in the sacred.
And at a certain age I thoroughly believed that both cross-country skiing and sailing proved the existence of God beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But mulling over these two last experiences I saw something: if someone on the boat I was sailing behaved inappropriately somehow, or if I fell too often while skiing or found the trail to be too challenging for me, the sacredness of the experience would not be ruined for me.
If it was a personal experience then I could just adjust around the conditions and feel blessed by the experience no matter what happened.
But when I think of a place where we gather together to behold the sacred before us as a group, then I see that I do not have the flexibility that I might on the top of a mountain when it begins to rain.
The sacred is more solidified, perhaps. More tangible.
And it’s there in that space for us. To serve us. And to ask us to serve it in return.
Or any worship space where there is an altar.
Where consecration has taken place.
Inviting the Holy to descend and enter this space that we share.
Where we share the space with the Holy.
It has transcended time and space, and has come through the shimmering veil that separates us.
And we receive it.
The experience of the living holy.
Truly the sacred space.
And I know this now in my life because I have witnessed people who don’t understand the profundity of the experience.
And behave without respect. Or courtesy. Or gratitude.
The big three.
And behave even without reverence.
As though this place had the same value in our lives as a carnival or mall.
We can be loud. We can say what we want to.
We don’t have to conform.
It is a funny thing, this kind of conforming.
As though this that we do at church is beyond the coming together to form a softball team, or play in an orchestra, or march in a parade.
This kind of conformity is one that binds us to the Holy that is there with us.
The ritual that we go through is one that was designed as a kind of a song. Call and response.
We call out. The Holy responds.
Then, the Holy calls out to us and we respond.
A song. A duet.
A dance. A pas de deux
And when it is over we are refreshed. Made new.
And we get to leave with that taste of wonder that reminds us of who we are and why we are here.