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Hide and Seek – Br. Mark Brown

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Ps. 27:1-6, 17-18
Luke 4:31-37

“One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
To behold the fair beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.”

Watching Senator Kennedy’s funeral the other day reminded me of how important it is to have temples. We need places to celebrate great lives—imperfect lives, works in progress we presume.  We need places to celebrate ordinary lives—imperfect lives, works in progress.  We need places to gather to celebrate life itself and the One who made it all possible.

We need places to remember the most important things.  And one of the most important things to remember is that there are important things to be remembered.  One important thing to remember is that the most devastating sorrows and the most spectacular and even lurid failings can be redeemed in a life of service to others.  Another important thing, and as the Gospel read at the funeral puts it, is that as we do unto the least of these, we do unto him. We need special places to remember important things.

Sometimes a building is just a building.  Sometimes a building is more like a poem or a symphony: a concrete embodiment of artistic vision, of creative inspiration.  A building can have the apparent simplicity of haiku—or it can have the scope and magnitude of a great epic poem.

The vision a building embodies can be clues from one generation to another.  If God is hiding and we are seeking him in his temple, as the Psalm puts it, a building can be one generation’s way of leaving its best clues to those who will come later.  Clues about where those who seek may find.  Clues about what it is important to remember.  Our forebears who built this chapel left us a big clue in the centrality and dignity of this altar.  “Seek him at this table…”, we hear our forebears say.

A temple can enshrine a people’s highest aspirations.  It can be a place where generations can rise from the mundane to realms of daylight, and then bring that light back to the realms of the ordinary.  The “children of light”, as the epistle calls us, ought to have such buildings.  People who reach upward into great light ought to have temples that dignify this quest.

A temple can be a thin place, as Celtic spirituality puts it.  A place where the veil separating us from the realms of light is very thin; a place where the very stones are worn through by generations of prayer.  This room is becoming one of those thin places because you are here and because of what you are doing here.  And because of what so many have done here before us.  The veil becomes thinner as the generations come and go.  We come and we go and pray the veil thin here.

Of course, the creator of all things cannot be contained in buildings and has temples not made with human hands.  The whole cosmos is God’s temple: God is in and through all things and “sustains all things by his powerful Word” [Hebrews 1:3].  He speaks, and it is.  He speaks, and we are. We sometimes find ourselves seeking God in temples not made by human hands: in the midst of the untamed splendor of the natural world. Under the great dome of the “blue true dream of sky”, as a poet put it [e.e. cummings].

And, as Paul reminds us, the Body of Christ is a temple, a gathered body, a spiritual temple of living stones.  This Body, this temple, the Church, the people of God can gather anywhere at any time.  An ice rink, a stadium, a gymnasium, a shopping center, a parking lot, a beach, a clearing in the woods, the barren floor of a desert—the temple which is his Body can and does gather in these places.  And we may seek him there.

And yet another temple not made with human hands: our own selves.  He abides in us; we abide in him.  We may seek the Lord in the depths of our own selves, in the chapels of our own hearts.

Buildings are great.  We need our temples; we need our poetry in stone and metal and wood and glass.  We need our places to fill with music and song.  We need places to fill with smoke and the soft light of a late summer afternoon. But the important thing is the seeking.  To seek him wherever he hides.  Under the dome of the sky, under a canopy of trees. In the midst of the people gathered.  In the myriad rooms of our own souls, be they light or dark.  Temples all.

We have no dearth of temples. In a sense, whenever and wherever we seek him we are in his temple. We may very well indeed dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives: we need only be seeking him.  And one day, at last, we shall indeed behold his fair beauty face to face.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
To behold the fair beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.”

Face to loving face at last.

© 2009

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6 Comments

  1. Eben Carsey on February 26, 2015 at 19:20

    “…where people have gathered and prayed the veil thin”–a phrase worth recalling. I do not find it in the printed text, but I seem to recall it from the audio version… as I very gratefully recall praying and eating with Brother Mark and others as my friend, Brother Tom, was close to dying at Emery House last fall.

  2. Christopher Engle Barnhart on February 17, 2015 at 09:00

    I find a temple in a the ranch that my wife owns. It is in the mountains, in Trinity Alps, west of Redding, Ca. where we live. This is the place where my wife grew up. Her grandfather & grandmother live out there days on this ranch. Her father and mother lived out their days on this ranch. We spend time (two weeks) each month living on the property. As I walk and hike on the property I feel the presents of her father spirit, leading me and guiding me. It is what you call “a thin space”.The spirits of those who went before are present here. The forest, the meadow, the creek where the deer abide are sacred. The ranch, the land, the houses will be there for generations to come.

  3. George E. Hilty on April 17, 2013 at 15:31

    Setting aside places and times expresses our need to have something “special” to focus our mind and attention on the sacred. For us, but not (we guess) for God, times and places become ordinary. Then, they do not draw us in to the sacred or supernatural. The setting aside or separating from the “ordinary” consecrates that place or time. The where and the when can then help focus all of us. The repetitions tend to thin the matter and time which otherwise separate us from God. The Celts are on to something here–even for one of their sons who at times seemed estranged from God and His Church.

    • Christina on February 17, 2015 at 09:37

      Ten months further on. Thank you George for your thoughts on Abide. Christina

  4. Pamela Hickman on April 17, 2013 at 11:36

    Brothers, your Word of the day has become something I look forward to . It’s something that keeps me focused on our Lords presents with me throughout the day. The blessings of the Lord remain with you. ladypamela

  5. Patricia Gross on October 1, 2009 at 14:36

    The Quakerism I grew up in provided silence and plain buildings that still appeal to me, but this sermon reminds me that a liturgical tradition makes us aware that there are special places and special feast days that help us commemorate important occasions. One Quaker woman I knew told me, “Every day is a holy day for us. “There’s a way that’s true, and yet it’s hard to see God every day if there aren’t special times and places where we gather and try to honor God’s presence in our lives in a particular way.

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