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Creating Sacred Space
Photo: Helmut Gevert
Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch artist, composed a drawing titled, “Girl Kneeling in Front of a Cradle.” It pictures a young girl, hair disheveled, clothed in an ankle-length dress, kneeling in front of a cradle. She has her left hand placed gently on the foot of the cradle, her right hand draped beside her. She’s looking down into the cradle at a peacefully sleeping little baby.

Who is this young girl? Perhaps the baby’s sister? What is she thinking and feeling as she gazes at this baby? The picture doesn’t reveal much about that.

But Van Gogh discloses what he must have had in mind when he wrote in his journal, “If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of the little baby when it wakes in the morning, and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.”

As much of his art shows, Van Gogh actually was quite adept at discovering experiences of the divine in very unlikely or normal places. Making sacred spaces by looking for and affirming the presence of God around us is a profound spiritual practice – seeing God in the eyes of a little baby, or deliberately creating a sacred altar in a corner of your house where you are reminded of God’s activity in your life and where you pay attention to God’s presence as you bow in prayer – specific ways to carve out sacred space to point your heart toward God.

Weekly Sanctuary

Sabbath is one of those sacred spaces given by God for us – a regular, weekly sanctuary in time and location where we are creating sacred space to encounter God through each other and through conversation and diverse experiences. The Bible puts it this way:  “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy" (Exodus 20:8-11).

Like the baby in the cradle to Van Gogh, the Sabbath is to us that place in time where we can see God's face, as it were, by paying attention to God's art all around us.  It's God's gift to help us see "something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean" ... to actually encounter God more deeply.  So it makes sense that God would want you to "remember" it.  Doesn't it?

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By Greg Nelson. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW LIVING TRANSLATION © 1996.

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