Where or what is sacred space in these times, in the 21st C? Where is our sacred space at Unity, and in our community?
The sacred space of Sabbath is common to both our first reading from Isaiah and our gospel reading. Generally, we don’t observe Sabbath in our society, not like Jesus did. We do worship, but not on Saturday, the Sabbath day. We worship on Sunday, of course, the first day of the week, because it’s the day of our Lord’s resurrection. In our pluralistic society, there is no one set day of rest. But if I had to describe ‘in a word’ our American approach to the Sabbath, what keeps coming back to me is that lyric from the hit song from the 80’s: “Everybody’s working for the weekend!” (Don’t ya think?) We’re working for our fun in the sun, time. The time to do what we really want to do. Time to enjoy, or get to that project we really want to do, the hobby that gives meaning and refreshment.
God created Sabbath for our renewal, and our reflection on the gift of creation, so we might find re-creation in our lives. So, it’s what we do with the weekends, that counts. The prophet Isaiah said long ago, “If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath,” “and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,” instead of, “pursuing your own interests on my holy day.” “If you honor it” by “offering your food to the hungry” instead of “going your own ways, [and] pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD…” But, I preach to the choir! Here you are, , after all, in honor of the LORD. We gather here, because there is a sense that we need a sacred space in our lives, and from it, we can hallow the other six days of our lives.
Jesus, doesn’t shy away from the debate about Sabbath and sacred space. In fact, he works God’s work on the Sabbath over and over again in the Gospels. Though today, he sounds a rather sarcastic note about what is lawful ‘on the Sabbath,’ notice too that he is also part of the “choir,” he’s teaching in a synagogue, on the Sabbath, and gathering with, all the people of God. But Jesus comes also from the tradition of Isaiah and Amos, of John the Baptist and all the prophets, in speaking on behalf of God’s justice and reign, and reminding us that, ‘What is good (and Godly) is not always what is legal, and what is legal is not always the good!’
Or, to put it another way, and using the President’s favorite image of driving a car: Imagine that you just had a Learners Permit that restricted you to drive with an adult, and you were in a car crash, in say, a lonely rural part of the state, and the adult was rendered unconscious, unable to supervise you, and that adult would likely die before an ambulance came. Wouldn’t you drive the injured person to the nearest hospital yourself to save his or her life? It may not be the legal thing to do, but certainly, it would be the right and good thing to do.
Jesus sees a life or death situation with the woman with the bent over back. Not that, after 18 years he couldn’t have waited one more day. But for Jesus, this is not “work” work, but re-creation, work, proclaiming that, this is exactly the kind of work God wants to do on the Sabbath, because it honors and brings creation closer to completion. Jesus not only reaches out to heal her, but he sets her free from the evil spirit that has her bound her up, and tied her down! For Jesus, this is not just a matter of working, but of doing something essential, on the Sabbath. Of course, Jesus knows the Sabbath Commandment, but in his defense he quotes a law that makes, a very curious exception – taking care of your livestock! Is it the legal thing to do? No has ever applied this rule - to people. But it is definitely the right and good thing to do!
We know that Jesus is on a journey to the cross, his face set toward Jerusalem, as Luke pointedly tells us. And on the cross, Jesus will further ‘complete’ the work of God’s creation, on the Sabbath day. Jesus’ death and resurrection, on the Sabbath and first day of the week, are a new creation, a new way forward, a breaking through to the other side of history, a liberation and breaking down of the barriers for us, the Gentile people, unbinding and untying us, and setting us free – all of us, who are bent over from the power of the Accuser.
God’s creation is on-going, and God creates a sacred space for us, in our worship, of course, where we are healed and fed; at table and prayer station. Here we offer the bread of life every week, and healing, by the power of the HS through the laying on of hands. We stand up in this sacred space, and continue praising God, and living lives of rejoicing, at all the wonderful things Jesus is doing – on the Sabbath, and every day. We are renewed in our lives, and given the power to create sacred space for others, out in the world. Wherever we carry the presence of Jesus’ blessing, and the gifts of the HS, we become co-creators with the Lord, every day.
Where have you created a sacred space in the world? for you or your family, or for those you work with, or go to school with?
Our Vision Steering Team took a field trip to a kind of sacred space that is a huge blessing to the community, the Center on Halsted. It’s not just the sacred space of one person’s doing, but was envisioned and created by a number of leaders in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual &Transgender community of Chicago, for everyon. It’s a beautiful space with the stated purpose to serve all youth and adults in a safe, inviting and nurturing environment. It has office and meeting space for community organizations, drop-in space for youth and seniors, gallery space, cultural programming, basketball and volleyball courts, underground parking, and a rooftop memorial garden. You might know it for the Whole Foods store, its largest leaser. It’s easy to see their vision, and creation of a sacred and safe space, here. It’s welcoming and inviting, “like a watered garden,” as Isaiah said of God’s people, who honored the LORD.
How about here? We have ‘a watered garden’ of our own, one of our green and sacred spaces here at Unity. We continue to seek sacred and safe spaces, for all people, which takes creative work, the work of setting our faces toward Jerusalem with Jesus, of knowing who we are, and where we are going, and what it is that we want to complete.
Where, in our community, here at Unity, or in our neighborhood, could we create a sacred space to reach out to those who need to be set free?
*** talk time
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We create sacred space, whenever we, like Jesus, are willing to enter, and get into, the space of others who are seeking freedom. When we are willing to bend down and look that person in the eye, and offer them hope and healing, in the name of Christ our Lord. God makes sacred space through us, and renews the face of the earth, breaking down barriers, and connecting up together, more and more, sacred and safe spaces. That God’s realm may come to a neighborhood near us all! Everybody’s working for …the new creation. Let it be born in us!