“What is love, but a word with a meaning?” – Agent Smith
A while back I purchased a book called “Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces” by Jon Pahl. I was looking for a good book on spacial theology, and thought this might be one. By spacial theology, I simply mean the presence of God as located in space (opposed to simply time/events)…along similar lines as the Celtic belief in “thin places”. Where the veil between God’s space and ours is a bit more thin than usual.
The book ends up being a lot more of a man pointing out the places we manufacture as “sacred”, and why/what that looks like. Which leads also to some great words about how we “clothe” God, and even define “sacred”. Unfortunately, what we call “sacred” is often a bit further from the presence of God and His Spirit than the word might seem.
Pahl points out that “sacred” in our current popular usage carries a meaning of “not wanting anything else to mess with us while we’re there.” Building a protected space/experience, and digging our trenches or having others dig them for us so that while we’re living in “sacred” space, we will not be disturbed. He gives examples of our home life, our shopping malls, and our Disney Worlds. Places where a fabricated experience exists, often simply “assumed” to be sacred, even if sometimes it’s only in our minds.
I’ve not finished the book yet, mainly because it’s one that I’m only reading sporadically…but this first half gives plenty of food for thought. In reading Bishop Kendall’s blog this past week, he brings up a similar issue lamenting a reply he received from a congressman about his concern over the debt crisis. Kendall says of the congressman’s response, “nothing was sacred—not even persons, if a crisis became severe enough.”
But there’s another definition of “sacred” that I’m searching for. Not simply for my home/family, but for the space I invite others into – both as pastor and as follower of Christ. So what would we consider “sacred” in our own lives? By this I do not mean “unalterable or protected” as the locations mentioned previously. I mean, where in our lives (both time and space) is the presence of God so fully real/realized that it is palpable?
I’ve probably not said what I wanted to say well, so I’ll offer a quick summary: Are we defining “sacred” this week by how “controlled/unchangeable” our events/spaces are? Or by being dedicated to/filled with the living presence of God and His Kingdom?
Because it seems that how we define/relate to “sacred” may be rubbing off on what we consider “Holy” as well…