Sacred Space – part I

Sacred Space

In the beginning God created. . . (Genesis 1:1)

“A Big God offers Big Ideas about Himself. . .”[1]

What Good is an Idea?

Let us try an experiment. Let yourself drift into contemplation and try traveling to a safe place (real or fantastic) of your own choice. Patiently situate yourself in a vibrant, beautiful venue. Remember that this is your environment for your idea, so feel free to let your creativity flow upon the canvas of this idea. If you really want details in the space that you are creating, then perhaps try reflecting over the first chapter of Genesis. Imagine the sequence of events within creation that eventually lead up to special creation (humanity). Imagine what your space might look like.

Once the idea is more concrete and less hazy, examine it. What is the setting? Is it a forest, farm, museum, or bustling street corner? What are each of your physical senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) experiencing as you look around and survey the setting that you are emitting by your own power? What of characters? Are their animals or people? Are they happy? Sad? Quiet? Loud? What are they doing?

While the scene may be intricate or simple, you are experiencing richly complex systems intertwining with many layers of colors, structures, and life as your rational and emotional parts ebb and flow to continually develop and maintain balance of this idea. You may be wielding a cosmos, ecology, and society all at once in this scene.

I wonder what feelings surface when you enter your mind’s sanctuary? Perhaps – one day – you will set up an inviting sign, saying, “Welcome to My Sacred Space!” We could sit and talk about it, while sipping coffee of course, admiring the choices and activities. I wonder what brought you to choose that person or thing?

Is this an old space? Is this one that you go to occasionally to cope with life’s troubles? Does anything in this place invite serenity into your heart? Perhaps this  experiment was new to you? Have you ever slowed down long enough to enjoy one of your own creative ideas?

Significantly, this is but one of your ideas. Your idea is worth exploring with another. Why? Because each of us are worth investment.

God’s Investment

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalms 139:13, NLT).

A mentor of mine once said that “God poured out Himself in creation. In this act, He ceased being everything so that we may become something.”

God poured Himself out upon a canvas and made something special. He made sacred spaces. Not just one, but we can conceive of many. In the Genesis creation narrative, the focal point is not necessarily the entirety of creation but rather the crowning moment of creation with God’s personal/relational involvement in forming human beings, male and female (Gen. 1:27). It is a humbling thought that God invested in us then, has invested in us throughout history, and still invests in us today.

Despite the problem of sin and the cacophony of clutter that it causes each of us, Jesus is the Good News that can bring a new orientation into our lives. It might then be said that our seasonal orientation might each be sacred spaces given that God may step into each of them and show us how very much we are not alone.

The Nature of a Big Idea

Sacred space is a big idea and big ideas take time for us to properly digest. We cannot expect to “get” a big idea in a quipping one sentence remark. Big ideas are to be enjoyed like a five course meal daily for months, years, or even spanning over the course of multiple generations.

To demonstrate this phenomena, imagine yourself on a subway with about five minutes until your destination. A fellow passenger strikes up a conversation with you and eventually asks, “Can you describe God to me?” How would you respond in the five minutes that you have?

Many thoughts begin to surface and each are packed with feelings. At this question, I would feel both excitement and anxiety. I would first pause to take a reflective journey through my family of origin (those who first framed God in my life), my church community, different readings, teachings, seminary, and personal experiences.

Then there is the business that God has been couched many ways throughout history and so what can I say to this person that will keep me authentic to my belief system but where I still remain humble and empathetic to their own? For all I know, this person may be about to share something in my life that I desperately need to hear. Do I share about God’s identity? Do I share the Good News? Do I set the stage to defend against a possible argument? Do I talk about my personal experience? Do I share the boundaries of what I think God is and is not? How much time have I spent thinking about all of this?

There are many Big Ideas about God[2] and it may be difficult to frame a five minute conversation about Him. In like manner, the big idea of Sacred Space cannot be exhaustively explored within the confines of a dainty blog post, however this is a nice venue to tease the idea.

At this point, it may be helpful to explore a little of what is meant by the phrase “Sacred Space.”

What are Possible Sacred Spaces?

If we agree that there is such an idea as “sacred space,” then what are the boundaries? Are there even boundaries? Is there a possible criteria that distinguishes a sacred space from, say, a mundane space? Perhaps if we investigate five spaces (there are many more) that may be said to be possible sacred space suspects we may begin to reach in the right direction.

  • The cosmos. This frames the major setting for the story of humanity. Are there boundaries? This may be difficult given the expansion of space where two distant points in the universe continue to expand with time. Still this is the overarching context that we have been given. One filled with mystery and beauty alike.
  •  The Garden of Eden. This begins to zoom in to the immediate setting for the story of humanity. It may be said that the boundaries are clear given that Adam and Eve were not allowed to enter the garden after their expulsion. Without getting into the question of what happened to the Garden of Eden, a more important question may be whether or not it is still significant for us today. Studying the Garden of Eden context may give us insight into the nature of a sacred space.
  • Interestingly, human beings are referred to as temples.[3] We are embodied creatures, we have many parts that are exquisitely complex. Each person is unique and put together by God Himself.[4] Humanity, male and female, was created in the image of God (this then becomes a strong suspect for sacred space).[5]
  • Speaking of temples, it may be also said that a physical embodiment such as a temple or church is a sacred space. Consider the Old Testament tabernacle with its many sacred objects organized in various spaces from the outer court to the innermost holy of holies where the ark of the covenant resided. Are their clear boundaries involved? What with the measurements and clear sections (not to mention the distinct presence of God) its likely that this could constitute a sacred space. An additional consideration is that these spaces involve the community of God meeting together to worship Him. These physical embodiments may then be said to be relational with other objects such as God and His people.
  • A place of solitude. It may be said that when we separate ourselves from the noise of this world, set down our day-to-day operations, and move into a space that is quiet and free we enter into a sacred space. This becomes specially real when we invite the presence of God into our lives and worship Him.

Significance of a Sacred Space for Humanity Today

What if God invites us to be partakers of sacred space? What if He further desires us to not only be partakers of already “made” sacred space, but encourages us to create sacred spaces for ourselves and others? If this is true then this whole idea of sacred space is not simply an intellectual journey but one where we may be active participants in His mission within our present world context.


Endnotes

1. Dr. David Norris, Professor of Biblical Theology at Urshan Graduate School of Theology , Big Ideas, p. xxi.
2. For an introduction to Big Ideas I suggest reading Dr. David Norris’ Big Ideas
3. 1 Corinthians 6:19
4. Psalms 139:13
5. Genesis 1:27


photo credit: space via photopin (license)


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