Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Where's Your Meeting Tent?

Dear Friends,

I was born an introvert. Given a choice between spending the evening at a loud, high-energy party or in a quiet room with a comfortable chair and a book, I’ll take the book every time. When I was a small boy, I loved it when my mom set up the card table in the living room and covered it with a bed sheet. Like a cat crawling under the bed coverlet to shut out the world’s distractions, I’d crawl into my living room “tent” and find a restful peace. I’m now too big to fit under a card table but I still crave that sacred peace. 

I know God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He’s in the boisterous party, the Sunday service and He’s in the squalor and poverty of the homeless encampment. He’s in the busy workplace, the crowded mall and the chaotic hospital emergency room. Never in my life have I been to a place where God was not present, but I connect with Him best when I meet Him in my “tent.”

As the people of God wandered through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, every time they came to a place and set up their camp, Moses pitched a tent that he called the “tabernacle of meeting.” The word tabernacle comes from the Hebrew that describes a dwelling and in this context it’s the dwelling place of God. Exodus 33:7 tells us that Moses set up the meeting tent far outside the camp. Away from the bedlam and noise. Far from the distractions of the day-to-day. This was where the people could go and meet God. And when Moses went to the tent, the “Shekinah” – the glory of God – His divine presence, would descend on the meeting tent and “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:9; Exodus 33:11 And when Moses left the tent, God told him, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

The way through the wilderness was uncharted and the people had no idea where they were or how they were going to get to the promised land. Their leader was Moses who was just as clueless as the rest of them. But Moses didn’t need a roadmap as long as he stayed close to God. Our own journey through the wilderness of life can be confusing and in the middle of overwhelming circumstances we can feel hopelessly lost. As did Moses, we need to meet frequently with God and stay close to Him. We may not know the way, but God does, and when we follow Him, we will be on the path to where He wants us to be. Whether you’re struggling today or just need more time with God, maybe it’s time to establish your “meeting tent” and create your own sacred space.

Your meeting tent can be pitched anyplace and at anytime. But creating a sacred space where it’s quiet and restful is helpful for us introverts as well as you extroverts. As Moses set up the “tabernacle of meeting” far away from distractions, perhaps we should do the same and find our own quiet place. Does having a sacred place in your home dedicated to the worship of God seem a little extreme to you? We have a special room in our house in which we prepare our food. A special dedicated space for us to sleep in.. A room used only for our personal hygiene.. We even have a special place in our house where we store the clothing that we are not wearing. But with all these special dedicated spaces, how many of us have a unique place just set aside in our house for God? Where we worship and pray? Do you have a sacred space that quiets your spirit and brings you into a sense of anticipation that you will be meeting God at that place and at that moment? 

If you were to consecrate, sanctify and set apart a sacred place in your home, what symbols can you think of that would designate this as sacred space? Many of you know that there’s a place in my house that looks like a church. There is an altar, a cross and candles. One of the earliest ancient icons of Jesus is on the wall. It’s where I worship and pray. It’s my sacred space. My “meeting tent.” God meets me there every time. Twelve years ago, God told me to turn my home into a “monastery” and to live a lifestyle that keeps me in the presence of God. 

But you don’t have to turn your house into a monastery or a church to have a sacred space in your home. You may not be able to have, or want to have, an actual altar in your home. You may or may not have a table with a cross and candles. Your sacred place will look different than mine. I have a friend who has landscaped his entire backyard into a sacred space. When you sit out there, you see the cross on the hill and you’re in church. Your sacred space may be the chair overlooking the garden. Or it may simply be the chair in the bedroom facing the cross on the wall. When we establish our sacred space – our “meeting tent” – wherever it is and whatever it looks like, that’s the place where we always meet a holy God.  Amen?

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