I believe when most think of a sanctuary, they probably think of stained glass windows and pews to sit on. For some it could be a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of a busy, loud day. For me, that would be the pond or in my prayer closet.
But I have discovered another sanctuary over this past year. There are no stained glass windows or pews here. This one has a starry sky, round lights on poles and iron benches to rest on.
I'm talking about at the mouth of the walking bridge where the Homeless Outreach meets with their guests. Just before that first week of the Outreach taking place, I prayed, 'O Father, are we doing the right thing?" and I heard Him clearly, "Yes, and I will be right there." I have seen friendships forming, hands clasped and head bowed with prayers raising to the Father. I have seen smiles and tears, despair and scaredness and hope. I have seen the nourishment given of food, love, and grace.
God stories are pouring from this sanctuary, like these. . .
the couple living out their car moving into their own apartment
the giant receiving a gift from a munchkin
the homeless man who made it to the big church all on his own
the man under the bridge who after trying for over a year, finally getting a full -time job and realizing it was in God's timing, saying God had to bring him to the bridge for his eyes to open all the way to see that Jesus was right there by his side the whole time.
a life rededicated. . .
the other man under the bridge receiving day jobs left and right and feeling satisfaction from working with his hands and receiving kindness from a little lady with a great big heart and he taking his daily wages and giving half of it away to a couple who was needing help that week and then that couple turning around and offering the man a home and the veterans from the Veterans Association finding out about this same man and setting up an appointment to meet with him because they are excited about getting him a full time job.
like the alcoholic who became ready to enter a rehab and an opening became available and he is ready to move forward with his life.
like the veteran under the bridge for 15+ years finally ready and did move into his own apartment
like the alcoholic who prayed for the first time in front of a huge group
the atheist who always kindly thanks us for the generosity
for the husband who saw the brokenness and lost identities of our male guests and decided to do devotional times with them
the man who decided he needed to get his life right with God. . .and did
No, this is not a church sanctuary with mortar and bricks, this is God's sanctuary filled with his church, the broken and the healed coming together. There are no windows here, this one is open to crisp air along with the scent of love and grace being breathed in. God is at work here and I stand back and smile because you just can't help it when you see the Hand of God moving.
Yes, this past year I have stood in a sanctuary and I believe it is filled with one of the most beautiful sights. . .flawed, fragile, vulnerable human beings coming into contact with love, and I'm not just talking about the guests.
"The greatest gift we have to offer others is ourselves, because it's in our fragile and vulnerable humanness that people see the unconditional love and redeeming power of God most clearly."
Introverts in the Church
What sanctuaries have you found yourself in that you didn't expect?
Or did expect but just wasn't built with mortar and brick.