Pastor’s Devotion #113

“Sacred”

“I am the LORD, who makes you holy” Leviticus 20:8

 

You are holy! You are holy because God has made you holy! When was the last time that thought crossed your mind? It is a sacred thought. We are holy because of the blood of Jesus Christ, bled and shed for you, for me, for all humankind. We have been created to be drawn into the holy and sacred spaces of God’s created life. Why do these sacred moments seem so fleeting and unfamiliar? Has science and human reason infringed upon it with numbers and calculations, so much so that we look to equations and codes to figure it out? But we haven’t figured it out. The race, the unrest, the riots – it’s reckless really – but it’s real! But isn’t sacred also real? The powerful and penetrating reality of a living God that delivers shalom – peace – complete wholeness and unity. Can one truly calculate the meaning of being brought before a burning bush? Like Moses, eyebrows singed, fingertips burned, knees shaking, the Word of God spoken into the soul of a man – what’s the equation for this encounter? Sacred! It’s Sacred! We have a need to recapture this holiness and be captured by the Holy of Holies.

When was the last time you recognized being brought into a sacred moment? You definitely did not discover it sitting in front of the television set, or computer screen. You found it, standing in front of a burning bush, as Moses did, standing on holy ground. It was a time set apart from space and routine. Sacred captures the soul. Sacred is experienced in the presence of, and in communion with the living God.

When was the last time you found yourself walking along the water’s edge? It’s just before dawn. The darkness still reigns, yet as you look to the east, your eyes capture the tiniest flicker of light illuminating the outline of the mountain peaks. A pink hue is detected, when all of a sudden, the brilliant white light bursts forth and breaks through, fully announcing that a new day has dawned. You are wrapped in a thick, warm jacket. You can feel the sting of the frigid air on your cheeks. You walk with the one you love. A cup of coffee warms your hands. The silence, the quiet, warms your soul. Not a word is spoken – but it is speaking – loud and clear – you know it. This moment is Sacred!

How long has it been since you felt the sacred rest upon your soul? This ongoing pandemic can be seen as an imposing threat to this peace. For many of us, perhaps most of us, it feels like foreign soil. We typically live in the mundane, rapid fire of repetitious activities day after day. A ticking timebomb that leads to disappointment. Now, with the pandemic restrictions, we wrestle within ourselves, unable to avoid that something internal is missing. Our isolation exposes our inability to distract ourselves and wonder what’s within. But is it possible that this pandemic can usher in new possibilities to encounter holy? What are you looking for? What are you listening to? What is the condition of your heart? Broken, tired and weary? If so, you are in perfect position to surrender and be brought to the bush, burning in its sacredness. Whether it is the wilderness, the wandering wood, or along the water’s edge, a sacred communion with God is waiting.

Come with me, let’s go further.

What is sacred? Breath, life, relationships, marriage, moments of all varieties and types – they are all sacred- they can be.  How do we “redeem” them? How do we “buy them back” after we have sold and squandered them and treated them like trivial cheap trinkets won at a small town carnival?

What do we hold sacred? What do YOU hold sacred? Better yet, what does GOD hold sacred? It takes time to consider the deep things of God. There are no short cuts. Is that why God established the Sabbath day and declared it – Sacred? One day in seven to be holy. Did God make it holy that we might take time to consider the precious gifts given? One cannot consider anything sacred racing and rushing through space and time.

Consider “communion”. HOLY Communion. Sacred Communion. We celebrate it regularly in our worship service. Perhaps too regularly? – is that possible? Holding sacred the body and blood of our Savior’s sacrifice for our salvation? But all of us, AND I LEAD THE CHARGE, to rush through the moment. Taking a “dutiful” pause before throwing down the wine, like we were just poured an ounce of whiskey in a shot glass.

Consider a different picture. Consider a sacred picture. A family is gathered around large tables. Members have traveled near and far to celebrate a child’s achievement – a graduation – given with honors. The gathering is set at a favorite restaurant, overlooking the harbor. White sails are seen in the distance. White table cloths cover the tables. Candles are lit, flowers are in their vases, and the celebration is about to begin. Anticipation, joy and love are beginning to spread around the table. It is a time to acknowledge perseverance, progress, and highlight the pleasure of the accomplishment. The waiter introduces himself and explains the movements of the evening. It will be a whole night affair. He leaves the table and a pause, selah, a breath is taken before it all begins. Quiet conversation ensues. For a few moments, hearts are allowed to breath. The waiter returns with a bottle of red wine. A special wine has been chosen and held specifically for this special occasion. The waiter removes the cork, he lets the bottle breathe. He pours a tiny amount into the bottom of the glass. The head of the table lifts the glass. He inspects the color. He lifts the glass to his nose and smells the rich aroma. He moves the glass to his lips, let the wine rest upon his tongue. He savors the rich texture, flavors and depth of the fruit of the vine. It is perfect. He smiles at his loved ones. All eyes are centered upon him. He nods his head in approval and beckons the waiter to share with all who are seated. It is a sacred moment – sacramental. And it is just beginning but they will remember this moment forever.

Jesus highly anticipated this sacramental moment with his disciples. He “eagerly” desired to share this momentous meal with them. He had hoped that they would forever remember this evening; remember this fellowship; remember this broken bread and cup of wine, remember his body and remember his accomplishment. He took time to have everything perfectly prepared. The candles, the herbs, the unleavened bread, the wine, the placements. A sacred moment. A sacred meal. Yet in the midst of lifting the wine, before his body was lifted to the cross, it seemed like all the meaning of the meal would be lost. His frustrated followers were lost. They were lost in arguments. Each one arguing which of them was the greatest. More arguments erupted. The “sacred’ was seemingly squandered in disagreements, defensiveness and misunderstandings.

But isn’t this the way of the world? How many times have we squandered and misunderstood the sacred right under our nose? When have we forgotten to rest and breathe in the sanctity of the day, the relationship right next to us, and the Word that is near – in our mouth and in our heart? Without truly thinking or understanding, the aroma is lost. Our life is filled with scattered activity without a hint of holy or moments of breathless delight. We rush through worship, but our rushing blinds us to so much more.

When was the last time you smelled the aroma of a new born babe? Can you recall the miraculous moment when your tender lips first kissed the soft cheeks of your infant child? You breathed in the miracle of life with all its beauty, depth and complexity in such a vulnerable state. Never was it more clear that only the Author of life could perform such glory. Or were you already lost in the preparations, plans and pressures that await at home? It is so easy to do. We all do it, in our own way. The sacred becomes lost among the laundry list of daily duties.  

Or perhaps its lusting after or lunging toward some temporal target.

Can you remember your wedding night? A sacred night. Vows and promises, hearts and minds filled with hope, united in a sacred moment, ordained by God and breathed by the Spirit. Two lives becoming one. A mystery. The bush burns between the two. Eyes meet, hands held, lips touch. Tender yet explosive in hope for what is to come. Or was it already washed away nights before in the back of a truck, or on a first date, or in front of a computer screen. More and more, the world paints a trivial picture of the union between man and woman. Some circles discuss disbanding this ancient tradition with its meaningless chirping. Perhaps it is because the observations of love have grown cold. Partners eating at the same table, but no words are spoken, no glances are made, no connections being shared. Something sacred is being lost.

Marriages can be written off, almost like a rite of passage. But it’s painful and spills destructive forces in all sorts of directions. I personally know that pain. I have felt those destructive forces and the sting that follows. How did the sacred slip away? The haunting questions still linger. Yet, with God’s amazing grace, possibilities still remain. The sacred can be recaptured. Forgiveness and humility are the gateways to this rediscovery. Thank God, I have felt this too. Two willing hearts able to return to a new sacred space.

And the covenant between man and wife, then compared to the covenant between Christ and his church. Another burning bush revelation. This is holy ground. The head of the church, the head of the body, at the head of the table, in sacramental communion with his people. He is calling them forth to carry forth his mission and message. The world compares belonging to the bride of Christ to that of a community group selling raffle tickets and cotton candy? No longer necessary. No longer a priority. What happened to the days, when the first actions of the first settlers, built a church for the community because they knew they needed something sacred?

What about the sacredness of life itself? Has this pandemic put a stake in the heart of the soul? For many, the answer is, yes. The loss of loved ones linger like a heavy fog that remains and is determined to destroy. Moments are now past memories. Life seems to be lost in loneliness and grief.

Others have lost the connection to their soul altogether. Lost souls, in a moment of insanity. This too, seems to be taking place in epic proportions. Suffering souls, taking permanent, panicked actions to stop the pain. News, just today, report of a woman in New York City, leaping from a 12-story building, taking her 5 year-old daughter along with her. This is not an isolated case. Doomed decisions that lead, in this case, to one stopping to take depression medications that leads to listening to lies about life and a meaningless future, that leads to an inescapable dark hole and the destruction of two more souls.

What happened to sacred? Life, so precious. Life, so fragile. Life, a gift given, so miraculous, so meaningful yet thrown away and tragically squandered. Heart wrenching. Pain, stifling. A million miles away from smelling the aroma of new birth. Light years away from lips of a parent pressed on their child’s cheek, cradling and caressing a modern, mind boggling miracle.

You DO understand that you are a modern, mind boggling miracle? Your heart pumps, your ears hear, your eyes see without any necessary thought. But what will it feel? What will they hear? What will they see? That’s where sacred becomes vulnerable. God has created you to be holy, to be sacred, because God is sacred. You have been made to walk, listen and see in holy communion with the One Holy God.

Today, let us take note of our breath. Let us hear the sounds of holy, even in silence. Let us taste and see a new day. Let it rest upon our tongues, and be pressed upon our lips.

For the One, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is standing at the head of the table. He is smiling over you. Can you see the sails in the distance? The table is set. It is for you! The candles are lit. He is lifting his glass to you. You are his honored guest. You are precious in his sight. He has tasted and given his approval. He has accomplished all that is necessary. Take a drink. Trust Him. Enjoy! Savor this moment. This is just the beginning. But you will remember it forever. For this moment is sacred!

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 9

“Eager Desire”

Jesus said to his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you…” Luke 22:15

 

Tonight, we celebrate Maundy Thursday. This night marks the “last supper” Jesus shared with his disciples. It was a special night. They would celebrate the feast of Passover. Passover is the meal that marked the Angel of Death “passing over” the Israelites in Egypt and ushered in their freedom. Jesus eagerly desired to share this meal with his followers. He wanted to “pass on” critical truth that would reveal the mystery of God and move forward their mission on earth. This meal was a sacred moment.

Jesus was excited to reveal that He was the true Passover Lamb that would take away the sin of the world. Moving forward, they would eat the bread and the wine and do this in remembrance of Him. He was excited to model for his friends the example of a servant. He expressed his heart in this moment as he washed his disciple’s feet. Jesus taught them that as he washed their feet, they were to serve one another and wash each another’s feet. Finally, he gave them a new message. He gave them a new commandment to love one another. He commanded them to love as God loves; agape love, unconditional love. And this expression of love was to be the hallmark that would distinguish them apart from the world. He said that they will show the world that they are his disciples by the love they have for each other. This meal was a holy moment.

Jesus shared many meals that were sacred and holy. Those meals changed lives. He shared meals where he expressed his heart and talked about God’s Kingdom. Jesus gathered for a meal with Zacchaeus, the tax collector and Simon the Pharisee. He shared a meal with Matthew and many other tax collectors and sinners. He shared a meal at a wedding in Cana. And he shared a meal that began with five loaves and two fish which ultimately fed over 5,000. He shared breakfast with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection. These were special moments. Important moments. Heart to heart moments.

Looking back, if there was one regular moment that set apart (made holy) my time with my kids –I would have to say it would be dinner time. Every night, the kids and I would sit around our table. I would fix a pretty simple combination around a meat, a starch, a vegetable and a salad. We learned that if we were to connect heart to heart, we had to turn off the television, shut off the music, silence the phones and eliminate the distractions. I miss those days. I loved fixing food and then having time to talk. We shared everyday things like school and work but often they shifted to more heartfelt, faith conversations.  We shared our day – surprises, stresses, concerns, victories. We would talk about what was on the news, goings on in the world – but eventually it would circle around to faith and fear and how God is woven into the fabric of our lives. I might not have always realized it – but those were rich times. Now I see them as sacred and holy moments.

What about you? If you are in the habit of eating dinner in front of the t.v. or your face is buried in some screen, I would like to encourage you to turn off the distractions. Gather around your table with whoever is near. Share from your heart why you believe this meal time is important and see if you can set it apart. Be vulnerable. Be expressive. Share your thoughts, your feelings, your dreams, your hopes and desires, your struggles, your frustrations, and don’t leave out your faith. Underneath it all – faith is the glue that holds it all together.

Every day, special moments are waiting for us around the regular dinner table. It’s more than just Passover or Thanksgiving once a year. Jesus modeled for us an example to follow. Let us break bread with him tonight. And also, let us break bread each day with those we love. Face to face. Heart to heart. Hand in hand.

If you want to hear more about Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples – you can go to our website and listen to our Maundy Thursday Worship Service online. AFTER YOUR DINNER of course!

From my heart to yours,

Pastor Mark