I got up at 4:00 this morning. For some, this would be normal. My husband gets up around 5:00 most mornings and is otherwise a normal human being. I don’t usually experience the world before sunrise on purpose, but this morning I needed to be at work by 5:30 to greet the first participants in the Thankful Day of Prayer Vigil at Resurrection. We do this vigil twice a year – once on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and once on Good Friday. The chapel is open for prayer from 6 am – 10 pm, we provide simple prayer guides and a prayer walk, and people just come to pray. It’s a simple, special event centered completely on prayer. Over the course of the day, every single member family, over 6,000 of them, is prayed for by name.
So….at 5:30, I was sitting alone in the greeting area outside the beautiful chapel, and it was very, very quiet. The candles were lit, the lights on the other side of the glass walls were low. I was taken by how peaceful and beautiful it was. And the thought came to mind that this sacred space is God’s House.
I remember being a little girl, coming into the sanctuary of the first church I attended, full of stained glass and polished wood and deep, quiet carpet and being told “This is God’s House.” It was so spectacular to my little girl mind, that I assumed any minute God himself would peek out from behind the altar, or maybe step out of one of those mysterious doors on the sides of the chancel. The church truly felt like the home of the creator of the universe, a special place to be. We dressed up each Sunday, complete with hats and gloves and shiny patent leather shoes. All the daddies had on coats and ties, and smelled like Aqua-Velva. The mommies all wore special dresses they didn’t wear during the week, and jewelry, and hats. We children were expected to keep our voices down, walk carefully, and be on our best behavior because we were guests in God’s house.
As I grew though, I think I lost the sense of awe that I attached to this sacred space. Church became a place of fellowship and community, and was often in non-traditional space. I encountered God in a personal way in an old, beat up house on a hill next to a big church that didn’t own one bit of stained glass. Even that more or less traditional church building became less formal and more comfortable as the youth of the day invaded and made it our own. I started wearing jeans to church, worshipping while sitting on the floor, and it was wonderful. I experienced worship in homes, hillsides, and in stadiums. I met God in all those places, worshipped and connected with His presence. If you asked me, I would have told you that the place didn’t matter at all. After all, Jesus taught his disciples on the road and underneath trees.
But this morning, in the quiet, I felt the stirring of that little girl-awe in the presence of God in His house. It is, of course, our relationship with God that is sacred, and if you look at it that way, there is no such thing as “sacred space.” But if a space is set aside for prayer and worship and connecting with Jesus, then it is sacred. It is God’s house. And if it is beautiful, and peaceful, and quiet, isn’t that appropriate for spending time with God?
My generation spent a lot of time rejecting the formal in worship, in community, and in our relationship with God. We emphasized God as our friend, our helper, our constant companion. All of that was good. But I wonder if all that friendly banter with the Creator of the Universe made us lose the mystery and the sacredness of our time with Him. This morning, when I came to God in prayer and had an overwhelming sense of being in God’s House, I was blessed with the sense and knowledge of the vastness of God, the greatness of God, and the need to come humbly to his house.