Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sacred Space

I spent a recent Saturday included in the Latino family, when I attended a workshop in Spanish on Latino worship. I’m still insecure about my Spanish language ability; so just showing up for the conference was both exhilarating and terrifying. There were about 50 people at the conference, and I was one of only four Anglos in attendance. As the first speaker talked about what it is like to live in our culture as a Latino, never free to be himself, always seen as an outsider, and considered inferior by too many people, I heard the murmurs of agreement from the other attendees and felt the visceral sadness in the auditorium where we were meeting.

            I struggled at first to keep up with the rapid-fire Spanish, but as I continued to listen, I found myself caught up in the lecture as this speaker talked about how Latinos draw strength from their community, especially during worship. He spoke of Latino worship as a place where worshippers arrive battered and bruised from the stresses and challenges of their daily lives and leave revived by their time in worship with their community. In the sacred space of worship, they can experience both joy and sadness in a place where they are free to be themselves and to laugh and to cry. In that sacred space, they are reminded that God continues to work out God’s purposes in our world.

            At the time of the conference, I had been working on a sermon on the beginning of Chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel, which has been described as the Little Apocalypse, in contrast to the book of Revelation. I learned that apocalyptic literature was a familiar genre at the time Mark wrote his Gospel, so the wars and famines and earthquakes listed would have been recognized as standard symbols. Apocalyptic literature appeared especially in times of violence and calamity, such as the time period when Mark’s Gospel was written. This type of literature offered hope to those who lived in difficult circumstances with its reminder that no matter how dire those circumstances, God was still at work in their world. I realized that for Latinos in our culture the repeated revelation in worship of God’s cosmic work in the midst of their difficult life circumstances serves the same purpose as apocalyptic literature served for the first recipients of Mark’s Gospel.

            I think it is hard for those of us who live privileged lives in this world to relate to the power of true apocalyptic literature, as opposed to imitations of our time, such as the Left Behind series, even though some of us are no strangers to violence and calamity, as evidenced by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. As I think back to the time I spent in the sacred space of a gathering of the Latino family in worship, I remember that in my own faith community, and especially in our worship, I too for a time inhabit sacred space each week as I am reminded  that God is still at work in the midst of this world’s chaos and violence; that I have a part to play in that work; and that ultimately, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”[1]

Grace and Peace,