1. God is everywhere and with us all the time. He doesn't need special rituals or spaces to meet with us (as was supposedly the dominant reality of Jewish religion in the Old Testament). "We're not like those Catholics," I was told, "who need rituals, robes and ornate buildings to worship. We don't need all that 'extra' stuff." Buildings, things and job positions aren't particularly "special" to God.
2. "Don't run in church!"... "Don't treat your Bible like that!" ... "Dress in your 'Sunday best'"... "Support your pastor. He's a 'man of God'."
You can see the conflict. There was an overt anti-Catholicism in the Baptist tradition that sought to reject 'elements of the sacred' while intuitively practicing them in many respects. Over the years though, I've come to discover that Protestant traditions rightly maintain this unacknowledged instinct because it has such deep roots among the populus Dei ("the people of God" for all time). What is necessary is not to deny these 'elements of the sacred,' but instead to plainly identify them, properly engaging them in worshiping the Lord. I offer here five categories of "the sacred" that the people of God naturally use in the lifestyle of worship:
- Sacred Times
However, 'sacred time' was, by no means, restricted to merely a day. Sacred holidays (feasts) punctuated the calender to create the occasional party 'to the Lord.' In addition, even times of day were designated for 'morning and evening sacrifice.' Sacred time is setting aside particular amounts of time for worshiping the Lord and enjoying life with him.
- Sacred Space
- Sacred rites
- Sacred objects
- Sacred offices
These 'elements of the sacred' are clearly evident in the Biblical record, and are reflected in modern Christian practice as well. The most legitimate Christian practices embrace this heritage and seek to maintain the healthy intermingling of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In addition, we have not even addressed here the concept of 'scared people,' that renders the populus Dei as the official residence of the living God (sacred space), with a lifespan dedicated to God (sacred time), who is his instrument of presence and power (sacred objects), who are invited into his courtly presence through royal protocols (sacred rites) and must bear his image and represent him to the world (sacred office). This notion of sacred people would thus render all sin a defilement of the sacred.
I grew up in a tradition that offered contradictory messages about 'the sacred.' I now operate in a tradition that maintains better harmony regarding these. In my opinion, all Christians would benefit greatly from acknowledging their instincts toward the sacred as given by God, and that those instincts, while needing parameters and direction from Holy Scripture and the wisely authoritative fellowship of the Church, are ignored at our own peril.