Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God’s Real Estate

            I’m still in the Sabbath/Sunday mindset and under that larger heading I want to make a comparison between realty and reality.  That is to say that one of the ways we understand ourselves as a parish or a people gathered is by the spaces we inhabit and within which we practice our Sunday worship, our Sabbath observances, and that silence that is made so special by its being shared. 
            Our lovely worship space -- both its interior and exterior -- give a setting and shape to our use that is unmistakable.  Our processions, our singing, our reading, our prayers and our coming to the altar each take their cues from the walls, the floors, the pews, and how we sit, stand and kneel from within what I have frequently called “a great box for sound.”  Heck, I get to preach in the peripatetic way that I do because it is what the building allows. 
            Even the exterior helps.  Walking to worship along Academy St. is it’s own experience that if not filled with prayer still nearly equal to prayer.  Now that the weather is warming Ginger, Susan and I will probably start sitting out in the churchyard to meditate and share thoughts with each other while the building provides backdrop and focus. 
            So here the reality comes-in that is different from the realty.  Simply, our properties are not enough space for all the ways that we are expected to observe Sabbath or worship on Sundays.  We are joined to our neighbors in Madison’s presentation of itself and it’s history.  Resultantly, we are constrained by standards that protect the character of our block and beyond but clearly we have a vantage point and leverage to move out and create other ways to be inclusive, other “spaces” that are NOT part of our landscape or architecture. 
            Outreach is one of those space makers.  Every time our outreach committee meets we are considering how to grow and reach through the resources this parish shares so that others may find comfort, food, safety, or support in some other place away from our historic properties, outside our hallowed walls and most importantly away from their own pain and struggle.  The best example is to think of the little bit of Sabbath that goes out with every Panda Pack. Not only are those we serve embraced in what our Bishop likes to call a widening circle but those who join the effort to serve also find a place that becomes sanctuary. As my friends in Clarkesville would say “grace-filled.” Outreach extends a reality that is more than equal to the realty of 338 Academy St. Madison, GA 30650. 
            In this reality we are responsible for a long list of extensions and embraces that begin and are nurtured in Sunday worship and Sabbath prayer but simply cannot be allowed to stay there.  On that list with every one of our outreach ministries is every one of our Advent-ures events and participants, every yoga class, piano student, counselee, person in recovery.  Indeed this is true for every ride to the doctor, every foyer, every casual greeting at the supermarket, every Cultural Center event, every Conservancy Ramble, every County Commission meeting. 
            Everywhere “we live and move and have our being” we are part of expanding God’s realty of Sabbath and Sunday.  Everywhere we go we can find places and create spaces for others to become members of Christ’s body.  Everywhere can be a space for what we do on Sunday.  Everywhere can be a place for Sabbath observance.  The reality is that all of it is God’s real estate. 

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