Sacred Spaces or Not?
It’s July 4th weekend, and activities for the holiday are going forward, much like before the pandemic. With vaccination rates up and COVID-19 infections down, outdoor gatherings are a welcome addition after last summer’s shut-down. My community has a yearly Jazz Festival during the weekend, and it was wonderful to once again enjoy live music seated in my camp chair on the lawn of the Old Capitol. As music played, my heart soared with joy. I felt as though the space was somehow sacred, just not in a way that I had imagined.
During the previous summer was the last time I was at the Old Capitol. I was participating in a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd. Spray-painted messages demanding equality and an end to systemic racism carpeted the sidewalks, were on the Capitol and other buildings, and covered street signs for blocks. Although most of the spray paint has been erased, there are still places where subtle messages could not be totally covered up. Reminders of the struggles that still exist in this country.
Even as I experience the view from the lawn of the Old Capitol, remembering the faces of the protesters makes me reluctant to label it specifically sacred. Fr. Richard Rohr said, “The trouble with declaring one space sacred is that we imagine other spaces are not.” Oh how dangerous it is to head down that road. We start saying “my neighborhood is better than yours” or “my political party has the right ideas” or “my religion or denomination is the best way.” The list goes on and on. It’s a daily litany played by many stating some things and people are considered sacred or IN, while other people and things are not.
Sacred spaces exist wherever God is. God is everywhere, and God is IN everyone! It doesn’t matter what color a person’s skin is, or their country of origin. It matters not who someone loves or what gender one chooses to present. Voting record and religious affiliation have no bearing. God loves all, and God is in all.
Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders of the time were seeking ways to get Jesus to say or do something that would make it possible to have Him arrested. In Matthew 22: 34-40, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus even went on to say that our neighbors are anyone and everyone. Those that live near or far… who look like us and who don’t look like us. Every person is sacred to Jesus, and that’s how I choose to treat all those around me.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
As you gather with family and friends for holiday celebrations, how will you view those who are different from you? Instead of jumping to conclusions or deciding who’s sacred or not, try to find the image of God in each person. Look past the physical characteristics that might put you off, and seek to see the very heart of the individual. If you have time, take a moment or two to listen to their story. By viewing each person as an individual who has a personal story instead of a member of a group….whatever the group, we can discover how they are worthy of love and compassion. Once we take the time to get to know someone, it is much easier to discover that each and every person is sacred.
Glorious Lord, thank You for making us each different and special, and yet we are all created in Your image. Help me to see You in everyone I meet, even those that might make me want to jump to conclusions about who they are. Guide me to love You and my neighbor. Amen.