Sacred Spaces

Mark 1:29-39

At a large church in Atlanta, a Sunday School class for parents of young children decided to rename itself. They kicked around several possibilities for appropriate names. Things like Seekers or Searchers or maybe Learners. But all of these seemed too far-removed from the everyday wear-and-tear of their lives. Finally, one idea rose to the top. It was simple, truthful, inclusive, and playful.  “Tired Parents Class” was the final decision. I think that says it all.”[i]

So, how about you? Are you a charter member of the “tired parents class”? Are you worn out from the daily grind or the stress of life? Are you “at your wits end” from constant worry; worry about your family or your well-being or your health? What “tiredness” is keeping you from fully experiencing life; from fully opening yourself to God?

Well, Jesus had some of these same kinds of issues to deal with himself.  After all, he was fully human. And in the very first chapter of Mark’s Gospel we see the human side of Jesus being lived-out, even as he began to teach those gathering around him about his Divinity. I mean, we’ve seen him baptized in a river, tested in the wilderness, we’ve seen him proclaim that “the Reign of God has come near” in the synagogue. In today’s text, we witness him heal many people in a very public arena, and a woman, Simon’s mother-in-law, in the privacy of her own home. And this is where we’re invited enter the narrative. Jesus got up early, before dawn the text says, to find a quiet place so he could spend some time in prayer. For a little while anyway, in the cool, quiet of the pre-dawn, the pace of his life slowed down a bit.”[ii]

And that’s the challenge we face as well. Our challenge is to find a corner of solitude; a sacred place where we too can find the time and space to be in the presence of God. A time of day when we might squirrel away in a soft chair and lose ourselves in prayer.  We, like Jesus all those year ago, seek those sacred moments when the pace of life slows down a bit.

But is this the only image “sacred space” we have? Could there be more to finding inner peace? Well, Rabi Tagore, the 20th century Nobel Prize-winning poet, once wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

So, according to Tagore, joy in life comes when we serve others.  But we know from experience that our lives can be difficult; that both physical and emotional pain can be crippling; and that the grief pain produces can prevents us from preforming acts of service. But I would contend that this is only true to a point.  Let me explain.  The people who came to Jesus for healing weren’t living easy, comfortable lives. They knew about conflict and oppression; they knew about the isolating effects of their illnesses, illnesses that segregated them from the rest of the community; they knew about tragedy and they lived in almost constant grief. But Jesus, as he healed their physical and mental illnesses, told them about another way of viewing the world. Jesus said that in him, in the Reign of God that was realized in his human life, there was meaning and grace and compassion. And he used these words as verbs, action words! “This is my commandment,” he said to them, “that you love one another.”

And here’s the best part! This Reign of God he spoke of continues to be present with us right here, right now.  My friends, we can know and experience God’s wealth of love today! How? Well, by following God’s call to love one another. Now please do not confuse this call with some mushy Valentine’s Day sentiment.  In this gospel we learn that Mark understands love as a way of being. He holds Jesus up as a “wealth of love” which is realized in us when we fully give of ourselves. And it’s through this giving of ourselves fully to life and to one another that we truly realize the joy of living.

And this is finally the purpose of the religious life and of the church; to awaken joy through service to and for one another. Joy is about connection, intimate connection. You see, true religion, any religion, isn’t about doctrine or dogma, it isn’t fundamentally about being right, rather, it’s about this intimate connection; it’s about re-binding all of life together, and it’s in this “re-binding” that we find our inner peace.”[iii]

So, yes, our sacred space can be a cushy chair in the morning, with a cup of coffee, lost in prayer. And I wish that for all of us. But that can’t be the sum of it.  Notice that Jesus didn’t stay in that remote place for very long.  The world was looking for him to come and heal the masses. And this is important because the other part of finding inner peace is sharing that peace with others. And I’ve noticed something over the years, our healing, the healing of our souls, begins by participating in the healing of others.

As Gandhi once said, “When we attend to ourselves with compassion and mercy, more healing is made available for others. And when we serve others with an open and generous heart, great healing comes to us.”[iv]  So, as we come to the table today, may the elements, the bread and the juice, symbolically heal our weary souls. But, may that healing find its way beyond our inner being, touching the lives of others.  May today’s sacrament, indeed, be a sacrament of healing to all the ends of the earth.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

May it be so for you and for me. Amen.

[i] Rev. James Lamkin. When Life Comes at You ( 2015

[ii] Kathryn Matthews.  Called to Healing ( 2018

[iii] Rev. Dan Crosby. I Dreamt of the Ocean. ( 2013

[iv] Ibid. Crosby.

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