This morning’s reading from the gospels is, to put it mildly, thought-provoking. It is one of the most pointed, provocative passages of scripture in the New Testament. I thought about preaching on it this morning, but I’ve been rather heavy in my past few sermons. So, I’ve decided to link here a sermon that focuses on our rather heavy gospel reading this week. As for this morning, Father’s Day, I’d like to focus on something unrelated to the lectionary readings this morning.
I want to talk today about the idea of sanctuary. Its a pertinent topic since we are newly back to worshiping here in St. Paul’s beautiful sanctuary. Its even more pertinent thinking about the times we live in.
Who doesn’t want to sometimes seek sanctuary from all the stress, strife, and struggle around us? Who doesn’t want a hiding place from all the hopelessness and hatred? I admit to wanting a sanctuary and hiding place sometimes, and I am among the fortunate ones. Magnify this hope a few times for other folks feeling isolated and ignored in our society.
Sanctuary. It is a beautiful thing to think about. And so I want to discuss it for a bit.
But first, we should define what we mean by sanctuary. Well, sanctuary simply put is the sacred space where God dwells. It is space set apart from the world yet in the world that is extra-filled with the presence of God. For us, living in the world, it is space where we can go to be with God in an extra-ordinary way. That is why sanctuary has the sense of being a place where we can go to feel protected, comforted, and strengthened.
I think of the verse from Psalm that the beautiful praise song I played earlier comes from. Psalm 32:7- “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” This song is about sanctuary. When the world feels likes its getting us down, we can go to God as our sanctuary. And for many, church represents a physical manifestation of that sacred space where we can go to escape the weights of the world for a little while to be enfolded by God’s presence, and then return to the world strengthened and prepared to be conduits of God’s love in the world.
So, Sunday morning’s in many ways Sanctuary morning. We come to this sacred space to be where God dwells and seek sanctuary.
Yes, seeking sanctuary in God’s presence, this is a Christian act. It is a spiritual practice. Sunday mornings are about resting secure in God’s presence, expressing gratitude for godly love and for godly grace, a love and grace that lifts us and holds us and keeps us keeping on. Sunday worship is about seeing all that is worthy being sourced in God, the worthy one we worship. Sunday sabbath is about releasing our worries, our wearying work, and worldly woes at the feet of Christ so we can sit with God, get to know God, and yes, even see God in the here and now.
Simply put, we come into this sanctuary to find sanctuary, and we find sanctuary by sensing God is with us, in the here and now, and in each and every breath.
Worship is sort of like exercise, spiritual exercise, a spiritual workout, if you will. You go to a gym, in normal times, to work on your physical health and strength. You go to church to work on your spiritual health and strength. Through worships services on Sunday, we build up the spiritual muscle of sensing God’s presence with us and sensing, as Ephesians 4:6 says, that God is over all and through all and in all, providing us sanctuary and shelter.
But the spiritual exercise of finding sanctuary in the everywhere presence of God does not end with postlude of Sunday worship. The spiritual practice of sanctuary is not meant to stay here. Monday through Saturday we can, we need to build that muscle of spiritual insight, the spiritual muscle that seeks and finds the sanctuary of God in the all, including in our very being.
This last statement points out a crucial point. We find the sanctuary of God in our very being. Did you know that?
Did you know as a Christian you are yourselves God’s sanctuaries? Paul asks this very question in I Corinthians 3:16. “Do you know that you are God’s temples and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Yes, impossible but true, each of us, you and I, are sanctuaries in which God dwells.
Maybe you know that praise song. "Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary pure and holy, tried and true. And with thanksgiving I'll be a living sanctuary for You." These lyrics come from Paul's teaching that Christians are God’s temple.What does it mean that we are to be God’s sanctuaries? Well, it first means we are called to daily do at home what we do at church on Sundays. Daily within ourselves we are to pray and praise, meditate and contemplate on scripture.
But it doesn’t stop there either. We are called to take that sanctuary with us out into the world. We are to be walking sanctuaries living among others and in creation. We continue with a worshipful life in the world by seeing and honoring God by honoring God’s creation. We continue with a worshipful life in the world by seeing and honoring God’s masterpiece, our fellow human beings wonderfully created in God’s image. We continue with a worshipful life in the world by conducting ourselves in ways that see and honor God all around us.
Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian thinker, once wrote these powerful words: “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.”
We talk about unity in church life. Our hymnals, if you peruse through them, have a whole section of hymns under the topic of Christian unity. Where does unity come from? From God, from Christ, yes. Looking at it deeper we see that true unity comes from the fact that God is over all, through all, and in all, namely all humans. We are each God’s children, united by God. Each of us, each person you see, is full of God. The common denominator each of us shares is that we, each and every one of us, were created in God’s image. Some might be ignorant of this truth and suffer as a result. Some might fall victim to the same thing that fell Adam and Eve. But God’s image created in us is still there, just latent, like a light covered by a bushel, waiting to be discovered via faith in Christ and his love.
From unity we also get equality. God’s image created in us is not more formed in me as it is in you. Thomas Jefferson got it right in this regard. It is indeed self-evident that all men – and women – are created equal. This truth goes all the way back to Genesis. Going from created equal to treated equally is the hard part. But the spiritual exercise of seeing God in all things helps. I’d say it is vital in the Christian work of security unity and equality among us.
Lastly, the ultimate aim for us is to take the sanctuary we find in God and in all that God is and apply it in our lives as Christians. Going from finding sanctuary in God to partnering with God to be a sanctuary for others – that is the ultimate call.
A song I really like paints a picture of what this being a sanctuary for others looks like. It is with this song and us listening to it I come to a close. Let us reflect and contemplate these truths as we hear the song "Brother" by Christian musician Jordan Feliz.