Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smells and Bells

Today was a big day at ECOOS. It is probably a once in a lifetime event for most pewsters to be present for the dedication of a church. Well, that's what Bishop Duvall did today as we officially moved into our renovated sanctuary. Today's sermon was delivered by Bishop Duvall. I think the theme would be "What makes a place holy?" As he described Nashotah House Seminary and how the sanctuary gave off a sense of holiness as well as the scent of years of incense, I could not help but sniff around and think, "It still smells a little bit like molecules of floor finish, stain, and polyurethane floating around in here." Oh well, we didn't have incense, but maybe we could still count this as a smells and bells service. I appreciated him, or was it Charlie, recognizing everyone present including those baptised, married and even those buried here. And of course Bishop Duvall delivered one of his famous stories in the course of his sermon.

Like most good sermons and services I left with more questions than when I had when I entered the sanctuary.

What makes a place holy? Is it our prayers and supplications?
What makes it a place that can transform sinners? Is it a formal dedication?
Do we need a place at all?

We moderns tend to keep God's place separate from our everyday lives. It becomes a place to visit on Sundays or holidays. Shouldn't every place be like the place Jacob named Bethel?
"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Jacob found that place in a dream, but the place was made by God. The choir nailed down the answer to my question when they sang Brukner's "Locus Iste"
a "Gradual for the Dedication of a Church."

"Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum,
irreprehensibilis est."

"This place was made by God,
a inestimable holy place.
It is without blame."

There you have it. It is not a place made by man at all.

I did learn something else new while listening to that story from Genesis. I discovered the name of the Lord. It is right there in Genesis 28:11-19. Missed it? Try again,
11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder* set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him* and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17 And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place Bethel;* but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Give up? Maybe you never watched "Airplane."

God to Jacob, "Don't call me Shirley."

1 comment:

  1. I am reminded of the words of an Israeli woman I knew who corrected me when I referred to "the Holy Land." She said, "Places are not holy; only God is Holy. Places are sanctified in His service or not all."

    Surely, you understand that.