Is nothing sacred?
That used to be a popular refrain when I was growing up. It usually followed something stupid my friends or I would do or say. Or perhaps after an uttered profanity.
The same question could be posed today. But different time and different meaning.
With angrier voices, coarser language and music, a greater gap between rich and poor, and growing distrust of our government, businesses and religious institutions, have we lost sight of the sacred? Do we pause to experience the holy amidst all the noise of the culture? Have even our churches lost their sense of it in trying to conform to the culture with the mistaken idea that it will attract more members? Worship as a rock concert?
Old Testament Israel had a deep sense of the sacred. God’s people built structures and altars to house and honor the sacredness of the Almighty. From the ancient Tent of Meeting to the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple, they created holy space where God dwelled. They developed rules and regulations – too many, it turns out – to become a holy people, a witness to other nations for the God they worshipped. This, they hoped, was how holy people lived.
God tells Moses and Aaron: “Say to the Israelites . . . I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:1a, 44).
Is it time for the people of God to rediscover holiness and seek out sacred moments?
Ascension’s sanctuary remodel goes beyond pews and carpeting. We are beautifying the central meeting space in which we worship God. We gather there as God’s people to honor and glorify him. He is present with us in that place. A glorious God who not even Moses could look in the face deserves a glorious space in which to be worshipped.
On September 16th, we move our worship services back into our “new” sanctuary. God’s sanctuary. What if we treated that new space as sacred right from the moment we first walk in? We no longer look at it as simply a place to hear a great sermon, to experience great music or to simply go through the formalities of worship. Instead we come to honor God, to experience his love in the fellowship of our fellow Christ followers and to be strengthened in whatever challenges life throws at us.
Perhaps this sanctuary again becomes holy ground.
Moses first encountered God through a burning bush. As he approached the bush, Moses was told, “Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy ground” (Exod. 3:5). By removing his shoes, Moses honors the sacredness of his encounter with the Almighty. It’s symbolic, of course. God has nothing against shoes or sandals. Rather, he’s asking Moses to do something out of the ordinary to honor this direct encounter with a holy, perfect God. It’s a sacred moment.
What if we were to do the same on September 16th as we reenter the sanctuary? In the act of removing our shoes we remind ourselves of God’s holiness and how life-changing it is to enter his presence. We strip away every thought and action that diminishes a holy God when we treat him as simply a best buddy or a convenient butler in the sky to cater to our whims and desires. After all, he’s God. He’s holy. All “salvation and glory and power” are his” (Rev. 19:1).
Nothing may be sacred. But Someone is.
© Ed Klodt, 2018
(Views from the Pews are occasional insights written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension. Questions and insights can be addressed to him in the blog post on Ascension’s website or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)