I think a lot about the purity of things…
Not to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I often think back to when I was 6 or 7 years old and when I be the first one awake in our home and I would turn on the television and there was only static. And then the national anthem would be played and then the “programming day” would start. And I think about how it wasn’t 24/7 – there was a time of night when it turned off. There was some time set apart…
I think of the purity of children and youth, the purity of faith, the purity of faith and more. I grieve the absence of purity in much of life. It really does seem like the effect or the motion of life and the world is of corruption or in the least, deterioration. I so desire for things to be more…sacred. And not just in the religious sense. I mean sacred in the sense of valued, appreciated, cherish and yes holy even.
But I was running this morning and I reached the part of the path where there are these very tall trees. I always look up when I am running under them and the sun happened to be shining through and as if everything were in slow motion, something dawned on me about purity and sacred things. Yes, we can watch this world corrupt and spoil most things we think of as cherished and pure. But we are not completely powerless on this…
The Biblical definitions of holy include: associated with God; revered; living according to a strict moral standard; solemnly undertaken; set apart for a Godly purpose.
Did you catch the last one? “Set apart for a Godly purpose.”
Not to diminish the first three parts, but these are what I caught a glimpse of this morning on my run. One of the key principles of holiness in the Bible as demonstrated by God is “setting apart.” God sets apart the Israelites as His people, sets apart the Sabbath, sets apart places and more. The New Testament theological term is Sanctification – the process by which the Holy Spirit works in our lives to make us more like Christ – diminishing sin and magnifying Christ’s qualities in us.
And I remember this morning that just as God sets apart, so should we to make things more sacred. Looking around today, if you really think about it, there is very little that is set apart or sacred anymore. When is there a time that is set apart? Very few things seem to be consciously set apart for a Godly purpose?
But I think that, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit we can work to make our lives, and life, more set apart and more sacred.
Part of it also is remembering and re-facing the horror and grief of September 11 last week, while fortifying in some ways, reminded me more than anything of how precious life is. Any blue-skied Tuesday morning, any morning really, could be the last one.
Setting apart time for and with God. Setting apart time for serving and loving others. Setting apart time for building family and relationships. Each of these and more aren’t going to just magically appear or happen on their own.
Like I said above, sanctification is a dual process – diminishing sins and magnifying Christ’s qualities. Likewise in real-time, to make our lives and life in general more sacred there has to be a removal of or a refraining from things that are destructive as well as an amplification of the things of God.
Running this morning I thought about how I want to take the sacredness and sanctification in me and share it and carry it and bring it wherever I go.
“Progress in holiness can be best measured not by the length of time we spend in prayer, not by the number of times we go to church, not by the amount, of money we contribute to God’s work, not by the range and depth of our knowledge of the Bible, but rather by the quality of our personal relationships,” writes Christian author Stephen Winward. And what he means is that the Bible, church, giving and prayer are important but what really counts, what really matters, is the fruit of all of that – that is most physically visibly found in the way, relying on God, we “love our neighbors” – that is where we find the fruit of sanctification and of what we call sacred.
I don’t expect to wake up one morning and find static on the television because the programming day hasn’t started yet. That’s naïve and foolish. Sulking about it won’t help either. True, purity, sacred things may seem less and less. But can I train myself more and more (with Help) to view and treat days, people, conversations, encounters – each and every breath – as precious and sacred – set apart for a Godly purpose? I don’t know how much of a dent it can make…but I want to try…and I want you to join me…
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and the forthcoming, With You: Every Step of the Way (September, 2011).
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright