Thursday, July 28, 2011

sacred.

"What is love, but a word with a meaning?" - Agent Smith

A while back I purchased a book called "Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces" by Jon Pahl. I was looking for a good book on spacial theology, and thought this might be one. By spacial theology, I simply mean the presence of God as located in space (opposed to simply time/events)...along similar lines as the Celtic belief in "thin places". Where the veil between God's space and ours is a bit more thin than usual.

The book ends up being a lot more of a man pointing out the places we manufacture as "sacred", and why/what that looks like. Which leads also to some great words about how we "clothe" God, and even define "sacred". Unfortunately, what we call "sacred" is often a bit further from the presence of God and His Spirit than the word might seem.

Pahl points out that "sacred" in our current popular usage carries a meaning of "not wanting anything else to mess with us while we're there." Building a protected space/experience, and digging our trenches or having others dig them for us so that while we're living in "sacred" space, we will not be disturbed. He gives examples of our home life, our shopping malls, and our Disney Worlds. Places where a fabricated experience exists, often simply "assumed" to be sacred, even if sometimes it's only in our minds.

I've not finished the book yet, mainly because it's one that I'm only reading sporadically...but this first half gives plenty of food for thought. In reading Bishop Kendall's blog this past week, he brings up a similar issue lamenting a reply he received from a congressman about his concern over the debt crisis.  Kendall says of the congressman's response, "nothing was sacred—not even persons, if a crisis became severe enough."

But there's another definition of "sacred" that I'm searching for.  Not simply for my home/family, but for the space I invite others into - both as pastor and as follower of Christ.  So what would we consider "sacred" in our own lives? By this I do not mean "unalterable or protected" as the locations mentioned previously.  I mean, where in our lives (both time and space) is the presence of God so fully real/realized that it is palpable? 

I've probably not said what I wanted to say well, so I'll offer a quick summary:  Are we defining "sacred" this week by how "controlled/unchangeable" our events/spaces are?  Or by being dedicated to/filled with the living presence of God and His Kingdom?

Because it seems that how we define/relate to "sacred" may be rubbing off on what we consider "Holy" as well...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

guilt and justice.

It's been an interesting week in the realm of pop court cases.  By which I mean, two completely separate trials - one of an ex-Governor of the State of Illinois, and one of a mother in Florida.  In this past week, there has been arm-pumping by Illinois residents, even by many who admit the punishment for Rod Blagojevich will probably not be adequate.  There has more recently been an outpouring of complaints over the "not guilty" verdict of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother accused of murdering her daughter.  I didn't follow either case closely, with the pop-court-media-circus extending the entertainment value far beyond what was necessary.  But it seems both were guilty, even though the prosecutors for Ms. Anthony could not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

It seems much of the work in these cases, and many more like them, is focusing the attention and desire for "Justice" onto a single person/act/verdict/punishment.  There is very little desire/pleading/mourning for the fact that things like this happen.  Crimes like these are committed.  We live in a broken world, one where we very much need for God to move, and move completely/fully/wholly.

So what of our response as citizens of the Kingdom of God?  There are plenty of verses that admonish us to "seek Justice".  We are created by a Just God, and in His image.  Even though that image needs repairing, His fingerprint of what is "just" is among us.  Even as young children, fighting over a toy, there is a desire for someone to come and make things "just" once again.  Of course, we may respond differently if we're the ones acting in an unjust manner.  Not quite as exciting.

I believe we are called to remind the world around us that it's not as much about these individual cases as the media sometimes wants us to believe.  Of course these individual instances matter.  It's horrible that Caylee Anthony was killed, and our prayer is that whoever was involved will experience the "setting things right" and justice that God offers.  But to limit our weeping to the Anthony family, or our own when we experience such horrors, is to miss out on connecting with the heart of God. 

A heart that weeps just as much that someone would commit such an act, as for the victim of it.  A desire for a world to be set right.  To be made whole.  To experience restoration and renewal in a way that we can experience in small ways here and now, but look forward to being flooded by, someday.

There are many looking at each other this week, asking the question "Where is Justice?"  May we, as followers of God - the author of what is "Just", and who has promised to set all things right once again - speak as believers of that promise.  Justice is coming.  Not simply as punishment for those who murder and walk away.  Not simply as a supernatural "nod" to the "justice" we've administered ourselves.  But as a complete and cosmic renewal/restoration toward the Lord we've already begun to serve/declare to a universe in need of healing.