Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Worship as Sanctuary

There is a beautiful old church in the next town down that was one of the very first Episcopal Churches in Ohio. It has classic stone architecture, beautiful Tiffany windows, rich tapestries, and divided pews reminiscent of days gone by when people had to rent pews for their families. The only indication that this church is situated in the 21st century is the increasingly common double altar. It has the original and ornate high altar on the east wall, and it has the more recent free standing altar in the middle of the transept.

The church is struggling. It is a traditional Episcopal church committed to Anglo-Catholic faith and practice in an increasingly “contemporary” and “relevant” Episcopal environment. But I don’t want to get into all that.

What interests me is the sign they have by the front door. It contains three powerful words:

Come, Rest, Pray

I don’t know how many of you are aware of the issues going on in my life. My wife and I just had our second son on April 19. He is a wonderful baby boy. Five pounds, one ounce, and 18 inches long. His name is Pierce. Pierce has severe hemophilia. His blood will not clot. It is a genetic disorder and barring a miracle it is something he will have all his life. Right now his treatments are over $200 a dose, but we are told it is not uncommon for adult males to spend over $100,000 per year for treatment. Needless to say, life has been hectic, frustrating, lonely, helpless, stressful and a whole lot of other things too.

I think that is why I noticed the invitation at the door of St. Paul’s the other day. I need to rest. I need to pray. I need sanctuary. I need peace. Now more than ever.

I have challenged several friends in my lifetime that worship should be a component of our Sabbath rest. It should be a safe place where people can escape from the troubles of the world into the loving embrace of the Father. It should be a quiet place where people can escape from the noise of the world and be comforted by the still small voice of the Spirit. It should be a sacred place where people can escape from the pain and profanity of the world and be touched by the outstretched arms of the Savior. Worship ought to be that place where all the troubles of life melt away in the presence of almighty and all-loving God, and we find true rest and peace.

But so often that is just a pipe dream. More often worship is an emotional roller coaster. More often worship leaves us drained rather than renewed. More often worship is more noise than it is quiet. More often worship is this-worldly rather than other-worldly. More often worship is about getting people worked up and excited rather than helping them find peace and rest.

I believe people today are hurting more than ever. I believe people today are more exhausted than ever. I believe people today are broken more than ever. I believe people today are more distracted than ever. I believe people today need sanctuary more than ever. I know I do.

Perhaps that is why three simple words seared into my mind as I drove past St Paul’s Episcopal Church:

Come, Rest, Pray.

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