Sharing sacred space

A few years ago, I started one of my sermons with the words “prayer is simply coming before God as you are.” Then I kicked off my shoes … and savoured the feeling of new-found freedom:
~ in my preaching,
~ in my prayer life,
~ in my innermost being.

These days, most of my prayer time is spent in the sacred space of my study which is full of family photos, little love tokens that my children have crafted and collected for Mothers’ Days and birthdays, journals and art supplies, flowers from the garden and lights from precious people, and Bible stories which change with the seasons and ground me in my continuing journey into the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory.

This sacred space is truly a physical expression of my interior life – of all that I love and dream of and value – into which I can retreat for a little silence and solitude ….

Lately, however, there has been a constant stream of “intruders:”
~ from “Little cat” who plants his not-so-little bottom on my wheel of the year and stares out into the garden before coming to rub his nose against mine,
~ to big galumphing Mumford who “sneaks in” with his eyes averted and lies down peacefully at my feet, snoring contentedly,
~ to our rather hyperactive Rory who lies against me on the soft carpet, tongue out, feet up in the air, forepaws touching together as if imitating a posture of prayer,
~ to Big and Little who first peek in to see what I’m up to and, on being invited in, put their heads on my prayer cushion and talk with me in hushed voices about the deeper things that don’t often get discussed amidst the noise and nonsense of the dinner table and – if I’m very lucky – give me a decent cuddle before getting back to the “business” of the day ….

Yet, rather than interrupting my prayer life, this sacred time has become even more precious to me with the realisation that it’s not just mine. The light and the calm and the love in this little space has made others feel welcome. And when they enter in, they are different. And when they’re with me, they’re part of the prayer. And when we leave, we carry the love and the peace and the joy of the Lord with and within us.

O God-who-bids-us-welcome,
You meet us at the door,
show us to the circle,
sit beside us on the floor.

The candles dim around us
in the glory of your smile
as You weave for us a story

and we wonder for a while

at how tenderly You love us
and hold our hope, our pain, our care,
as we gather in Your presence
in the sacred space of prayer.  

Day 1: Turn us again

Psalm 80:1-8, 18-20
Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:24-37
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

One of my favourite memories of my children’s Montessori preschool remains their particular way of celebrating birthdays. Once a year, each child had the opportunity to sit in the centre of a circle of their peers while their teacher ambled around them, spinning a large globe in her hand.
All together they chanted:

The earth goes round the sun,
The earth goes round the sun,
Three hundred and sixty five days a year
the earth goes round the sun.

Five, six, seven  times she would circle and they would chant  until the birthday boy’s (or girl’s) new age had been counted.

It was a sacred moment, not only of remembering all the years that had passed before and brought them to that particular time and place, but also of rooting their lives within the greater context of a world that would continue to move and spin – three hundred and sixty five days a year, year after year after year.

The start of the Advent season is a similarly sacred time; an opportunity to reflect on the days that have passed within the greater context of God’s continuing plan to bring the entire earth into right and whole relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So we pause ….

We pause and hold at the centre of our thoughts, our prayers, the abundance of tears which we’ve choked on or choked back over the past year ….

We pause and open ourselves fully to the anxiety that we have not wanted to acknowledge as the earth has quaked and flooded and the sun has scorched ….

We pause and feel the weight of our own sinfulness and selfishness as it ripples through our family, into our community, into our society at large; even into our leadership, until we are smothered by our iniquity and immortality ….

We pause
in the darkness of sin
and the dis-ease of despair,
with no magic word to offer
a world so broken
that it seems beyond repair ….

It is in the painful pause that the significance of the Advent season is borne. Three hundred and sixty five days of the year, year after year after year, the world keeps on turning, going about its business; trying through its busyness to drown out its groaning, aching need for a Saviour. Advent reminds every Christian of the call to watch and to wait for the Word, the Light of the World, to come again and save us.

“Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved,” the Psalmist beseeches (verses 4, 8, and 20).

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,” Isaiah invites (verse 1).

Today, practise the pause. 

Offer God the hurt and anxiety that you might have felt over the past year. 

Express your empathy and concern for the pain of the world.

Then pray repeatedly the plea of the Psalmist or Isaiah’s invitation.