Friday, April 24, 2015

The importance of Place.....

I am one of those type of folks who is influenced by place: my surroundings can have a very real and powerful impact on my thoughts, my mood, and if I'm in the place for long enough, who I am. Places define me as well: I identify with not just the company I work for, but the actual physical place I work in. I identify myself with our house, because much in it is "me", and I confess that I'm a homebody. 

Places are important to me, both in my real life and in my vivid imagination. I yearn for time to be lakeside in a cabin - a specific cabin - as a means to mentally escape. I find comfort in the memories of  my parent's homes that I grew up in. The condo I lived in for 12 years and the house we currently have been in for nearly 15 years, are all part of this "place" need that I have to feel comfortable, feel at home, feel enveloped in a sense of familiarity. Nature also provides places for me, that I either return to in memory, in photographs I took there, or if I can, actually GOING there.  

For me, too, place helps in worship, and in that form, I am a paradox when it comes to place in worship.  I find that worship for me is enhanced by where I am worshipping, and if I don't feel the place I'm in is "right" - and that's a VERY subjective viewpoint - I actually can prevent myself from worshipping.  While there are many who find large classic sanctuaries with pipe organs in front to be intimidating, I am the opposite.  But I have also felt the need to worship in places that are not made by the hand of man, but by the Hand of God.  I have a vivid memory of a grove of aspen trees on the side of a mountain that had a clearing in the middle, and all the branches of the trees bent over to make the arches of the "chapel".  I felt - in that place - the presence of God, and fell to my knees in respect of that awesome silence.  I have been in places in nature that spoke loudly in their silence of the need for quiet reflection and pensive worship.

I was reminded of this fact earlier this week, when I went with a group from my church to listen to a demonstration of an organ we were thinking of buying.  As I walked into the sanctuary - almost a chapel - I felt the intense need to worship.  Even with the salesman playing the organ loudly, I could tune that out (no pun intended) and found myself in a deep sense of calm, and a desire to stay, and worship. The light from the large north facing stained-glass window at the back of the church illuminated the sanctuary well, yet allowed for a sense of booth refreshing coolness and inviting warmth.  The overhead lights offered little to light the sanctuary, but created an illusion that they were candles. The stained glass window in the chancel was smaller, but allowed in glorious light, bathing the altar with warmth.  I felt at home here immediately - it was a place I could have stayed and called "home".  I took some Instagram photos of the church, and was surprised when many of my Instagram followers liked this image - even other Instagram users "liked" the image.  Perhaps, for them, this place inspired a sense of comfortable worship, and the need to be somewhere that calls to their souls. This was a place I could pray, could sing hymns, could sing sacred choral works - this was, for me, a place of worship.

We all have places we adhere to in our memories, in our souls, and in our very lives.  Let us keep these places, treasure them, and reflect upon them.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Easter's over, right?

Yesterday was Easter.  I have yet to venture out into the retail world to see if all the usual Easter decorations, candies, and assorted gifts that are associated with the day are removed. Today, I'm recovering from a full day of church and family events, enjoying the luxury of working from home with email and wi-fi.

2000 or so years ago, it was different.  You see, we in 2015 have the luxury of thinking of that DAY - the day that Jesus rose from the grave. Easter day.  And then we go out and live our lives normally.  But for those first Christians, it was FAR from a normal day.

For you see, on that Monday, only a handful of folk knew that Jesus had risen.  In the Gospels, we have accounts of Him appearing to a few women, to his disciples, to select others, and then we have more detail in Luke's Gospel of appearances to several hundred.  But, to distill it down, the Gospels tell us of only five people who actually SAW the empty tomb: the two Marys, a Joanna, and Peter and John.  That's it. But for the many hundreds who saw Jesus in the next few weeks, to them, the Resurrection was not the event witnessed by a few, but the person of Jesus, walking with them, talking with them, eating with them, and showing Himself to be radiant and glorified.  To them, THAT was the Resurrection.  

And so, for us, we celebrate Easter, but then we pack it away until next year.  But Easter isn't just a day - it's a season!  It STARTED yesterday, but it goes on.  I like how our church observes these days as more than just a single day, but as a season.  We observe it by calling next Sunday "The 2nd Sunday of Easter" and so on.  But, shouldn't we, in our own lives, observe the Resurrection as not just "Easter", but every day since then?  Maybe even just observing it based on what those early Christians saw it as - the days following His rising from the tomb until he ascended 40 days later. Even if we do that, we should find ourselves dwelling more on the significance of the total Resurrection experience, and not just Easter Sunday.

Soli Deo Gloria