In Revelations the announcement is made “The dwelling of God is with men”; and many times I have encountered God in places removed from the sacred space we call “church”. God reaches me whilst relaxing on a park beach, sat in a cinema or theatre, or just lay on my bed; God is never confined to any particularly space and time.
And yet, I have always had a fascination and awe for some of the familiar sacred places that have stood for many hundreds of years, witnessing to a faith in my Jesus. One of those places is York Minister. The first time I went to the minister was on a school trip to York, aged 11, on a lovely spring day when the blossom was on the trees and York’s majestic architecture appeared stunning to my young enquiring mind. We did all the usual tourist sites – the Shambles and the City Walls, picnic down by the river, visited the Railway Museum and a guided tour around the Minister.
It was the first Cathedral I had ever been in. As I entered I recall the experience of feeling so very small, yet surrounded by a God who was suddenly far bigger than I had previously imagined. As I looked up to the Rose Window and the High Altar suddenly my understanding of God and history and faith was challenged, and I liked what I saw. As I stood there among Saxons 1 (my class) listening to the teacher explaining about the window, I was filled with an overwhelming sense that this great faith story was part of me, and I was involved in something even bigger than I ever dared to ask or imagine.
There in that sacred place I encountered God in a moment of sacred dedication, as my rowdy class mates tried out the kneelers and spoke too loud, making their voices echo around the sacred walls. I had to fight back the tears and make out that I had a headache to cover my emotion. For there in that vast and holy place I had an Isaiah experience and caught a glimpse of the Lord seated on his throne, and I was lost in wonder, love and praise.
In my life time York Minister has been a place of controversy. When the 80’s the 13th Century South Transept was mysteriously struck by lightning, causing considerable damage, followed by all the theological dilemmas that abounded about the wrath of God and heretical Bishops. And yet the Minster rose again from the ashes, it survived to tell the story, and again reminded me of a God who is so much bigger than we are, yet so active in our lives. (No I’m not suggesting God sent the lightening, but I am saying he brings healing and builds us up again). Hallelujah!
Gracious Lord, thank you that you have stood the test of time. That the faith we share today has been experienced by many people and despite our failures and mistakes you build us up again.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again of your faithfulness, your strength and also your intimacy, so I may always be lost in wonder, love and praise of you.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!