I’ve heard it said from our friends who have experienced homelessness that they have sensed God more fully when they were sleeping outside. I never fully understood it, but one special friend described it to me this way, "When all you have is the concrete to your back, you realize that all you have is God, and God is with you there, too."
Yesterday, we asked our congregants at Street Church: "Where is God?"
The opening question was asked in a way to see what their experience has been, without leading the question. As visitors introduced themselves, we received responses such as:
"God is in my heart," or, "I see God everywhere," said another.
Our neighbor, LeAnn, who has been wrestling to find stability in her journey has been coming to Street Church the last couple of weeks. It has been a joy to have her with us. Last week, God spoke through her. She pulled out a scripture in the middle of our discussion of how God causes us to respond through the fruits of the Spirit, and she offered our group a passage from Luke and the sermon on the mount. We needed that specific scripture in that moment to identify what it means to live a Christian life. Yesterday, Leann’s response was once again prophetic:
"Gods not dead," LeAnn offered.
….."God was in my jail cell," said Joe. "When no one else knew my birth name in the prison," he continued, "I heard my family name, ‘Joe’ called out to me in my cell. God was calling me by name and even shows up to us in there, too."
It seems, based on these responses that God is alive, speaking and calling out to us to draw closer and to be more aware of the divine, triune presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit active in our lives. The voice that has the ability to speak through our neighbor’s lived experiences and testimony. The search for God in the unexpected is part of the resurrected life of a Christian.
My former Pastor in Charlottesville had a big impact on my call to ministry and teaching me about ancient spirituality practices. He taught me a lot about contemplative worship, learning how to do more with less, the value of silence, and finding sabbath in nature. To this day, I remember one sermon he gave about "thin places," a term used in Celtic spirituality to define the sensing of the divine presence, places when and where we experience God. These unique areas where people find God on "holy ground" can be discovered in the simplest locations and spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, fasting, community, and other practices not listed here. What I remember the most from his lesson was that a "thin place" could be a place or a personal experience where God is present and palpable. While Pastor Scott found "thin spaces" in nature, yesterday, I found it in a church basement during worship at Street Church.
It was 8:00 AM and the temperature was already pushing 80 degrees and would be close to 100 degrees by worship time. Because of this, we decided to move worship into the cool basement of the Common Ground Meeting House where we gather every week for Street Church. The basement space isn’t too becoming, no stained glass windows to gawk at; no organ to listen to a cascade of hymns, just good coffee and folks with a lot of hope and love for one another. Felt like church to me, even without all the bells and whistles.
Our Goodwill partner employee, Josiah Goldhardt, and I led worship together for our community. Suddenly, this blessed church basement became holy ground as we heard worship songs in a building again. As a musician, there are different dynamics when leading music inside. The reverb of the room causes echo and holy vibrations. For the first time, I could hear our people sing out like a chorus of saints who needed to praise and experience God in a real and tangible way. Despite all the layers of pain and trauma collectively experienced in that room, with the breath given to us in our lungs, we praised God in One voice. It was a Holy Spirit moment. I sensed we had entered into a "thin space," where God’s presence was assured and real. We were walking on holy ground alongside our neighbors who came to worship with open and humble hearts.
God’s presence and reality, appears in the most unexpected places and situations. Even when we struggle to see where God is already at work, God is there, illuminating in the simplest treasures. In the mundane and extraordinary, God is with us, even in the hills and the valleys of our walk. Our neighbors taught me that.
Those of us who have not experienced homelessness, may struggle to find the quiet time to slow down long enough to see God’s handiwork in the transformed butterfly, or the details on a small crawling critter, unique to Gods purpose too. What I have found through my friends at Street Church is they can teach us what it means to be intentionally "here." Often times, they are not distracted by the busyness of what is around them, worrying about the mundane tasks of tomorrow that take away our focus from what is truly important. God speaks in, to and through their stories and it is our job to slow down enough to listen.
May your search to find the holy "thin spaces" in your own life, to find where God is living, speaking, and moving, be a never-ending quest for God’s fullness and love.
Thanks Be To God,