I'd bet that everyone reading this has a favorite chair, a side of the bed they sleep on, somewhere they feel most comfortable. Things need to be 'just right' in the space we inhabit, in the place we 'be'.
The ante goes up when the space, the place is a holy place, a holy space--like a church.
I told two stories in my sermon on Sunday about holy places and holy spaces. I'll tell them to you as well.
First is M. In my first parish the baptismal font was in the back of the church. Back then I was much more into the rules and canons than I am now and I thought that since baptism was admission to communion rather than a requirement for entering the sanctuary that the font should be up front, near the altar. So, I moved it there.
Five years later, at my going away party at St. James, M. came up to me and told me, "I've forgiven you for moving the baptismal font." I almost said, "thanks for not worrying me about that for five years". Instead, being on my best behavior, I asked her why moving it was a problem for her. She told me that the font had been given by her parents in memorial to her grandparents and had always been at the back of the church.
At St. John's, where I was Rector for 21 years, K., who always sat in the second pew on the pulpit side suddenly stopped coming to church. She was an on-the-edge member, on disability with two teen age kids she was raising alone. I knew she sometimes came to the Soup Kitchen near the end of the month so I hung out until I saw her. I sat with her at her table and asked her why she'd disappeared.
"My pew got taken away," she told me. I was confused, but then I remembered that we had four baptismal Sundays a year with 8-12 baptisms and we'd just been through the Sunday after Easter (designed to have a good crowd on 'low Sunday') and Pentecost--both baptismal Sundays and the families of the children were spread over the first three rows of each side of the center aisle each time. So K's pew was 'taken away'.
She was a marginal person who thought many of the people at St. John's thought they were better than her. And, more damaging, she thought many of the people at St. John's were better than her. So to be displaced from her 'spot', her place, her space, was profoundly painful for her.
Of course, both of those stories--both M and K--were irrational.
But when we talk about our place to be, rationality is the last consideration.
Feelings about 'place' and 'space' are profoundly personal and emotional. And when that 'space' and 'place' is also considered 'holy', well, that just multiplies the feelings....
Ponder 'the space' you occupy for a bit and the 'place' you feel is holy.
Ponder and imagine what depths of the subconscious 'place' and 'space' occupies within your being.
I think you might be surprised by how important 'place' and 'space' are to you.
Human beings need to take up 'space' and need a 'place' to be. Just 'to be'.
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