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One thing I have asked of the Lord

February 21, 2015

I’m not always good with habits, or so my friends remind me.  It’s true, I am often at my best when I am spontaneous; it’s my natural way.  Of course, true spontaneity is undergirded with a routine. My friends may not realize that I do have a good bit of structure in my day to day life – habits that form me and keep me centered.  One of these daily things I do, a habit every morning, is say my prayers.  Now, being a good Episcopalian, I usually say the Daily Office early, while I’m just waking up around 4:30 or 5:00am.  By the time I get to work, I usually need another round. When I started working at St. Mark’s, I was intentional about creating the habit of beginning each day by first going into the church and saying prayers.  I decided to pray a simple Morning Prayer from the Northumbrian Community.  Most days I arrive at the church early, around 7am.  First thing, I go through the sacristy into the church proper, where it is quiet.  In the summer, as I sit in the choir, the light of the early morning sun filters through the stained glass of the chancel windows.  In the shorter days of winter, the morning is still dim, and the light of my iPhone seems out of place. Over time, just as any habit does, these prayers have slowly seeped into my bones  The opening lines from the psalter flow from memory, so I often sit in the quiet dark as the words tumble from my lips.IMG_1476

One thing I have asked of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life;
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Everyday, it never gets old, sitting in the beautiful space of the church where I am fortunate enough to work and serve and worship.  And so I pray these words from my heart.  How amazing, that this one thing, answering the deep call of ordained ministry, has led me to a place of true beauty, a place with an amazing sense of the Holy, a thin place where Heaven and Earth seem to mingle together.  Truly, I seek God in such beautiful space, a temple of the Lord filled with beauty, with a rich history of so many people who have gone before to make St. Mark’s such a wonderful community of faith, blessed with an inspiring space in the middle of a bustling, growing city.  What a gift.  I often feel like I have to pinch myself to be sure it’s real.

During Advent, the trees in the park across from the church were draped with twinkling white lights, and a power grid from street lamp to street lamp enveloped the whole space from dusk to dawn with a kind of wonder.  More often than not, I would arrive in the morning before the lights shut off and leave in the evening after they came on.  The beauty of the sight led me to begin to sit in my car in the predawn morning and say my prayers there rather than go into the church.

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And the strangest, most wonderful realization came to me as I prayed those words from Psalm 27.   In the early morning, the people moving around in this area of San Antonio are not, in general, the people of the middle and upper classes.  Usually, the people I see are working people — workers in trucks going to work in the trades, restaurant cooks and diswashers, court clerks and doormen — and also the people without a home, the people who have toughed out a long and often cold night outside with what blankets or coat they might be fortunately enough to have.  As I sat in my car, watching these early morning compatriots moving through their daily routine, I could see clearly that I had missed something important all those mornings in the protected beauty of the church: the beauty of God’s wider temple of the whole world.  The very place that so often inspires me, so often comforts me, so often challenges me, was in fact also blinding me to the broader temple I am called to serve:  this beautiful, broken, wounded, and complicated world where we really live and move and have our being.

Now, I know this is an oversimplification.  Praying in the church didn’t necessarily blind me; there’s nothing wrong with our buildings which glorify God and so often serve as holy, sacred space.   And it’s my own perspective that needed a subtle shift, a reminder of the truest temple of God, the whole creation which we are called to protect and steward and bless with the works of our hands and with wise and careful awareness of our actions and their impact on creation, and of ourselves as part of that creation, our bodies as God’s temple.

Still, I needed to look again at where God has placed me, has placed this lovely and wonderful church — in the midst of the city, where the deep complexity of life is all around us, every day, every night.  I needed to not get lost in the beauty each morning, behind the quiet locked doors of the sanctuary.  Instead, I needed to see the connection of the two — the world inside and the world outside, that they are in fact one world, one temple where God is present and very close, drawing together those things which seem so very far apart at times.  The church building, the Church universal, are here to serve God’s creation, to minister to the world in need, to share the glory of God, to feel and experience and know the connection of all life.

I’m so thankful for this place, this corner of God’s creation where I am called to be.  I’m thankful for the beauty of St. Mark’s and for the place we have in the heart of the city.  I’m thankful that I am reminded again that there is little difference between the sacred and the profane, because God is present in all this and so much more than I can know or feel or see or experience.

So now I pray these words in my car, and when I walk along the path, and when I kneel in the chancel.  They remind me that my job is to will one thing with a pure heart (as Kierkegaard first taught me), to ask God to give me eyes to see and ears to hear the beauty of the Lord, every day, in every face and every place I find myself on this journey.

From → On Faith

One Comment
  1. eurotrek13 permalink

    This one really spoke to me, Carol. I have shared your questions about our church family’s place in our city, and I have faith that we will discern together how we can better serve those around us. Thank you for sharing your insights and making my Lent more meaningful.

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