Sacred Spaces 6: ‘SACRED SPACE’
A sacred space is, first of all, a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces. Only mine isn’t!
There are many beautiful and meaningful places which I have been to; we recently re-visited Durham Cathedral, which always uplifts me. There are places set aside for contemplation or reverence such as Assisi, Jerusalem and, nearer to home, Walsingham, Holy Island or Iona. Much nearer are Thicket Priory, the Bar Convent garden, Wydale and Ampleforth.
For me, however, there has to be one element to make a place special and that is water. The Northumberland coast is a wonderful place for this, packed summer holiday beaches not quite so good.
I love the peace of a lake, the constant changing of a stream or river, the magnificence of wild water and waterfalls but, for me, there is nowhere like the sea. Every time I go to the sea I am reminded of the vastness of creation and my own littleness within it. I think of God’s amazing and eternal love for each one of us. I am reminded that the creator commanded his creation (or should that be her creation??) in, for example, the stories of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), Jonah being transported by a great fish (Jonah 1:3,10), Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:25).
To help explain our passage into death, Bishop Charles Henry Brent wrote:
What is dying?
A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side
says, "She is gone".
Gone where? Gone from my sight,
that is all; she is just as
large as when I saw her...
the diminished size and total
loss of sight is in me, not in her,
and just at the moment
when someone at my side
says "she is gone", there are others
who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up the glad shout,
"there she comes!" ...and that is dying.
As I look out to sea ships come into view and leave again. I can imagine safe harbours waiting for them as, one day, there will be a safe harbour waiting for me and Jesus ready to pilot me in.
Psalm 121 says:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills -
From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
At the sea’s edge I lift my eyes to the horizon where heaven and earth seem to be joined. The Lord, my Lord, made it all. As the children’s song goes, ‘I love the sun, it shines on me. God made the sun and God made me.” (There are a lot more verses along the same theme.)
Sometimes, it seems as though, in church, we invite God to join us in our building - our space. Standing by the sea it is as if God has invited me into his space.
In the awesomeness of that wonderful creativity there is room for me.
Not only that but in the amazing awesomeness of space and time where our planet, to quote Carl Sagan, is like a speck of dust dancing in a sunbeam, God still has time for me, still loves ME. (YOU)
We all need to remind ourselves of that once in a while, and share that thought with all the others he loves but who don’t know it yet.
Next time you stand at the sea’s edge look up to the horizon. God is with you, you are with God in his space. That is a sacred space.
"Prayer for Seafarers"
Loving Lord, you give us all our daily needs: we recall that Christ calmed the seas for his disciples: hear us as we prayer for seafarers everywhere - especially those who travel our oceans to bring us goods and fresh produce, braving hardships and danger (from the turbulent winds and seas and modern piracy).
Deliver them safely to their home port, to their family, friends and loved ones who await their return.
We prayer for the work of the Mission to Seafarers who work in ports and safe havens around the world to offer a warm welcome: inspire the staff and volunteers who give their time and skills to offer comfort and compassion to those miles from home.
Grant them continued peace in their daily lives.
adapted from Mission to Seafarers website