After last Sunday’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, many people in the gay community said the act was not just violence against people, but against a sacred space, a sanctuary. Many other people were offended by this concept, that a secular club for drinking and dancing could in any way be considered sacred. What do we need from sacred spaces? For one thing, we need a place where we can feel safe being our true, vulnerable, emotionally naked selves before God and our community. For many of the people at Pulse that terrible night, church could never be that space. “Hold on,” you might say, “those people chose a sinful lifestyle that alienated them from the church.” I personally wouldn’t agree with you, but my line of thought doesn’t depend on our agreement. Every seat in church is filled with sinners, but few sins have been singled out in the same way. Few “sins” cause entire congregations to shun and shame a person until church is no longer a place of safety, but of emotional violence. Pulse, like many similar clubs, was a place where people felt free of judgment and persecution. A place where people might not hear God loved them, but where they might be able to believe for a few hours that God – that anyone – did not hate them.
Sadly for many of us (gay, straight, or otherwise), church is far too often a place where we do not feel truly safe. Where we can’t be emotionally vulnerable. Where putting on the façade of a good Christian takes precedence over being an actual, flawed, messy human being. You know the type. The type Christ came here to save. Heaven forbid that during the passing of the peace, meant to be a time of reconciliation, we actually offer forgiveness to people who’ve wronged us or peace offerings to those we’ve wronged.
So we say our prayers and sing our hymns in church, but find our sacred spaces elsewhere. In an art studio. In a garage workshop. In the garden. On a mountainside. At the office. Screaming into a pillow. On the open road. At a night club.
No matter where we are, it could be someone’s sacred space, someone’s holy ground.
The communion table is one form of sacred space. All are invited, but some of us may never again believe we’re welcome inside the walls of a church. So maybe invitation is not a matter only of asking someone into our sacred space, but of being willing to enter and share theirs, as Christ shared space and table with sinners of all kinds. Maybe the table extends into all places, and all times, just as our God does. Maybe we should treat every space we encounter as sacred, as a place where the promise of the communion table is unfolding, as a place where we remember Christ forgave even the men who drove nails through his body so we can muster enough grace to say: “God loves you. I love you. We’ll sort the rest out. If you can’t come to the table, may I bring the table to you?”
God loves you. I love you. Let’s gather at the table, wherever it is, while we still can.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.