Friday, September 9, 2011


(my posts used to always have soundtracks. here's one for this post, in case you want to listen: sanctuary.)

Lord, prepare me
to be a sanctuary,
pure and holy,
tried and true.
with thanksgiving
i'll be a living
for you.

each tuesday morning, our church staff gathers at 8:30 for a morning prayer service. we spend an hour or so praying together and digging into scripture, getting our hearts and minds oriented to the "why" of what we do before we sit down to our staff meeting and all the "whats" of what we do. it may be my favorite hour of the week.

we gather in the sanctuary, setting a circle of chairs just in front of the chancel, quite literally at the foot of the cross. we recite a liturgy that is centuries old, repeating words that have been repeated by generation upon generation before us. we read scriptures that have been prescribed for us by that liturgy, long before the moment we're in right then, facing the things we are facing just now. we join our voices with the heavenly hosts as we recite the jubilate or the te deum. we are not alone, we seven (or eight or six or however many we may be that week). it is when it is raining that i am most clearly reminded of that fact.

you see, at that spot in the building where we circle our chairs, there's not much between the ceiling above our heads and the roof, uninsulated and unfinished as that part of the ceiling is. and the roof, well, i'm not sure, but i'm guessing it's made of metal. because when it rains, it's something to hear sitting there. there are times--like this past week, when the remnants of a tropical storm were passing through--when we have to shout to be able to hear each other over the deluge. it's a sound something like what i remember niagara falls sounding like when you walk under it, something i haven't done since i was a child but have never forgotten. i love that when we recite the prayers together, along with that deluge, i know that our voices are not alone.
there are also those sweet moments when the rain abates, even just for a moment, at just the right place in a prayer, like when our rector prayed for peace this week, and the deluge settled abruptly--if only momentarily--to a gentle drumming. i cannot help but smile at those moments, too. and there is in all that rainy noise also a loud reminder to be grateful for that roof over our heads, surrounded as we are by people who aren't so blessed. the occasional leaks the roof springs are nothing but a small headache compared to the experience of those who have no roof whatsoever whose leaks to lament.

sanctuary: that's what we call that part of the church, the place where we gather to worship. but a sanctuary is more than just a room in a church; literally, it's a place of refuge or safety. that roof, that drumming rain, that circle of chairs, the people in those chairs, those ancient words--those things represent refuge and safety for me even more so than the roof that so loudly receives the rain. even as i am protected from the rain by the roof of that sanctuary, and even as i rejoice in God's provision of that roof, i am reminded of the sanctuary that is the sound of that rain, the reminder that my voice is joined with many in that deluge even as it is joined with the few gathered there with me at the foot of the cross.

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