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Monday, July 18, 2005

Holy Shelter

On a private site I've belonged to for a couple of years, a few days ago in our ongoing game of "this or that" someone offered the choices, chapel or sanctuary?" I had to answer sanctuary! Not only do I love imagining the concept of holy shelter; closely related to sanctuary, frequently I think of Martin Luther's referring to the cross as the Gnadenstuhl, paralleling one of the appointments of the tabernacle. In biblical theology, mountains are the places of God's most significant self-revelation and as Christians we claim God's majesty, sovereignty and glory most fully and compellingly revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth dying defenseless outside the city on the cross of Calvary Hill--or in the words of the Welsh hymn tune, "Bryn Calfaria."
Exodus 25

17 You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat...

God promises to meet us at the throne of sovereign mercy and grace; God meets us at the cross of Mount Calvary...

On my theology blog, part of my answer to "Where can Hong Kong celebrate their "slow" (=Christian) thanksgiving / homecoming liturgy?" (this related to Kosuke Koyama's Water Buffalo Theology, which - among other things - is an offering in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue) included:
Though initially it may sound astounding to make Jakarta or anywhere else "as central as Jerusalem," if the person and work of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ is not for Jakarta just as much as it is for Jerusalem, he truly is not and cannot be Lord of all.

I think Hong Kong will be able to celebrate homecoming (after all, isn't homecoming the ultimate thanksgiving?) within a community gathered not only to perfunctorily and ritually evoke the presence of the risen Christ in Word and Sacrament, but when that gathered people attests to the presence of the Christ in each another: having gone slowly enough to know and to call each others' names; having gotten sufficiently grounded to ignore at least some of the babble of commerce and consumerism; having decided to "seek the welfare of the city" (city=civilization) where they are rather than seeking the wellbeing of their purses and properties; looking outward to the other's interests and inward to an authentic, relational and re-creative self.

Again from my own experience: although compared with the lives of our 3rd and 4th world sisters and brothers I've always had a relatively abundant diet and, by grace, despite some financially and otherwise precarious times I've never lacked physical shelter, some time ago I experienced a series of significant losses and subsequently for several years I sensed what felt like a real loss of self as well as a lack of the life giving and life enabling refuge, shelter and sanctuary of Christian community.
Also on my blogs, as recently as late August 2004, when I was writing about God, Strangers and Saints, from Linda and Robin Williams' I posted over on Desert Spirit's Fire:
Words from a haunting song (you need to scroll way down the page for the complete lyrics) by Linda and Robin Williams:

Don't Let me Come Home a Stranger

As I walked out one evening to breathe the air and soothe my mind
I thought of friends and the home I had and all the things I left behind

Will there come a time when the memories fade
And pass on with the long, long years?
When the ties no longer bind, Lord save me from this darkest fear:
Don't Let me Come Home a Stranger
I couldn't stand to be a stranger

In this place so far from home, they know my name but they don't know me
They hear my voice, they see my face; but they can lay no claim on me

© Robin Williams, J. Clark
From Kenny Loggins, over on my city safari blog I've posted "Celebrate Me Home"; here's a little of the song:
Home for the holidays, I believe I've missed each and every face,
It's time I found myself, totally surrounded in your circles
Please, celebrate me home,
Play me one more song, that I'll always remember,
and I can recall, whenever I find myself too all alone, I can sing me home.

Uneasy highway,
Traveling where the Westerly winds can fly...whenever I find myself too all alone,
I can make believe I've never gone, I never know where I belong,
Sing me home.
Please, celebrate me home; play me one more song,
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate me home
But I'm bound to roam, come on, celebrate me home! Please, celebrate me home...
Sing me home, celebrate me home--a song lives, breathes and changes, never quite the same another time (clearly not a comment about recorded music), always a little imperfect...a song is human! I'd asked,

...after all, isn't homecoming the ultimate thanksgiving?

Forever I've been seeking shelter, hoping for home; for this entire past decade, I've longed to be celebrated home - preferably by a community - rather than rejected back into home-less oblivion. The church was my first home and my first real family, too; Sunday morning used to be the most joyful time of the week for me...

Asking myself some questions: on Sundays as I wait on the Word, what do I expect to hear? What do I want to hear? And what have I been teaching and preaching of late? Probably not much more than a single refrain: God's unmediated presence absolutely everywhere all the time and the crucial fact that evidence of God's presence typically is both somewhat apparent and somewhat hidden; often God's presence is paradoxical, as in the anything-but-obviously "spiritual" earthbound expressions of the sacraments, as in the anything-but perfection of the people of the churches.

To be continued in a while? Maybe.

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