A Word from Our Pastor: June 2017

Sacred Moments

In last Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned that with our relentless schedules and fast food choices, we are giving up “sacred moments” for convenience. Several people asked me to comment more about how to make our use of time, and our meals more “sacred.”

First, what does “sacred” mean – to you? When do you feel that something so special has happened that you call it “sacred”? Technically, “sacred” is pretty much the same thing as “holy.” These terms mean “set apart” – “extraordinary,” “special.” For me, what makes an event sacred is an experience of “connection” – to God and/or to others. The “connection” (for me) is an understanding that we are united in love. This can happen when I am reading, or meditating when I am alone, or it can also happen when I am with others – in worship, or just sitting around a table talking, eating or playing a game. Sacred moments are all around us, if we pay attention. We pay attention by being truly “present” – that is, by fully observing and feeling what we are experiencing, by allowing the feeling of love and unity in.

While sacred moments are happening all the time, there are things we can do to raise or awareness of them. The more we practice being aware of these moments, the more we will experience them.

So, what can we DO?

1. Prepare.

First: Set your “intention.” This is a very important step! Prayerfully consider what you would like to happen at the event. What is your intention regarding the people who will be there, and yourself? What might God’s intention for your group be? It can be something as simple as, “that we may feel connected to God and one another.” Write your intention(s) down as a reminder.

Second: Plan. If we want an event to be “special,” we spend some time planning. If it is a party for big game day, we think about how to make people comfortable (where to put the chairs, do we need lap blankets or sun hats? etc.), we think about food, we try to think of things that will be fun for the people we know who are attending. So, if you would like your regular Tuesday night dinner to have sacred aspects, plan ahead. Knowing who will be there, what will make them feel especially at home, especially loved? Not everyone wants white tablecloths and candles: maybe a picnic, maybe hotdogs. . . But what you do can “say:” “I have thought about you, and this is one way I can demonstrate my love.”

Third: Invite God to the party! If this is a gathering for people who have a spiritual connection, it can begin with an invitation to prayer or celebration of God’s blessings. You might have a special candle that you can light with the words, “This candle is a reminder that God is present with us.” Or, you could say, “This is a reminder that the light enlightens all of us, all over the world.” One nice table grace is to ask everyone to share something that happened that day; after each person shares, the group answers with “And God was with you!” Or, it can be more traditional, with one person offering a prayer for the table. Be sure to consider what kind of prayer will be most comfortable for the group – the specific kind of prayer you enjoy may not be the best choice for a group, although your prayer should be a true reflection of what you feel.

Fourth: Expect a sacred moment: look for it (them!) Even though you may be concerned about things going “right” – don’t overcook the lasagna – try to focus your attention on connecting with God and with people. Listen to what people say about their lives, and the challenges and joys they tell you about. How can you respond in sympathy and empathy? Don’t be too quick to tell them that God is taking care of them – if they don’t feel it, your sentiment, however well intended, will not be comforting. Just listen: that is a gift that few of us experience on a day-to-day basis.

IF YOU’RE BY YOURSELF: many of us feel closest to God when we are alone, and quiet. The same guidelines apply: first, set your intention to grow closer to God (and yourself!); second, plan the time so you will be physically comfortable, and not interrupted (how much time? turn off the phone, etc). Third, invite God to the party by creating a ritual that reminds you that you are entering sacred time (kairos) and sacred space. You might light a candle as described above, use incense, meditative music, sing or read a favorite hymn or song, use photos or pictures to focus your thoughts. The more often you repeat the ritual, the more easily you will slip into sacred time.

Finally: give thanks. Before, during and after the event: be grateful for the opportunity to have a connection to God and others. You may also benefit greatly (really!) by formal reflection on what has happened. Writing in a journal or quietly reviewing the event and interactions will ALWAYS (at least for me) show you something new and sacred about what you experienced.

Most of us know pretty well how to plan for a special event. Really, the only major difference in inviting a sacred moment is to find ways to invite God to the party, and to welcome God when God is present.

May the coming week be filled with sacred moments!
–Rev. Naomi