This morning many people will come together to pray, reflect, seek forgiveness and offer gratitude. This is what we call ‘church’ or ‘temple’ or a variety of other names for our places of worship. Does this weekly experience awaken us? Does it inspire and inform our life in the world when we leave our sanctuaries? Is this is what most people think they are doing when they enter a time of worship?
I fear that many people enter and leave their sacred places with little connection to what they have said or why. Much of what we say and do is taken for granted. We sing hymns with words so familiar they are often dry of inspiration. We move through the ritual by repetition and habit. A habit is so deeply ingrained that to suggest a slight alteration raises anxiety and distrust. In the brief time we gather for renewal and reflection, we do so with little concern to open our mind and hearts.
How easy it is to be lulled into the familiar. Words which are spoken and prayed can lose much of their meaning. It has been my experience that many seekers today look for expressions of faith where words and rituals are rich with meaning and can be applied in daily life. Most often these expressions come from the roots of our faith traditions and are explained in ways that deepen faith and understanding. Imaginations are awakened and action inspired.
Yes, this takes commitment and the willingness to open and develop relationships. This time of ‘worship’ instills in us the faith of our fore bearers. And as we remember – we are taught how our own lives and faith can impact the world today.
These thoughts were inspired by a reflection written by Steven Charleston. It offers a wonderful example of how sacred time nurtures our faith. It describes the critical role both ‘relationship and ritual’ have in our spiritual care and growth. As you read, consider these questions: Who do you look to as teacher and spiritual guide? What is important to inspire and encourage your faith journey?
Thank you, Bishop Steven Charleston
From four sacred directions, I saw the elders assemble, winter haired wisdom, come to speak by evening fires, before night could claim the light for the stars alone. From four sacred directions, the people came, to hear the ancient stories, to sing the ancient songs, before dawn could claim their voice for the wind alone. From four sacred directions, the spirits gathered, love to bind our wounds, hope to heal our hearts, faith to clear our minds, truth to set us free, gathered by prayer, gathered by God, to mend the circle, before time could claim our vision for the past alone.