Sacred space

by Bp. Rob Northwood

Foundation Day, 27 June 2021

As we celebrate Foundation Day, Bp. Elmer has asked me to bring you a word about expansion, the purpose of Church, and the purpose of setting apart sacred space.

Sacred space is really important.  The ancient churches put a footprint on the earth, which we hope will remain through time and eternity.  I believe the CEC needs to take this vision, for a place not only to gather and fellowship, but where God’s people gather and His presence is expected; not a place where we move out the chairs afterwards and eat lunch, but a sacred space where God, the Lord, the King of kings, alone is worshipped and glorified.

Lifting up the King

It’s a place for the arts, dance and community, where God’s people gather in sadness and joy, in worship on feast days, saints’ days and solemn days; where they fast, eat, and join one another in the struggles and victories of life.  As you set apart your minds and thoughts and consider how you can make an impact, I believe in having a church where people say, “That’s a place where you can go, a place you can run to.  Come to our church: it’s not a temporary building, but a place God Himself has given us, where we lift up His name” – He says, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Myself”.  Part of our worship is to give the best we can for God’s glory. He’s lifted up, not only in the architecture and the space, but in our voices and lives and the way we come together.

I believe God has a plan for the CEC: I don’t believe He brought us together for anything other than victory.  We’re called to bring forth a vision to make visible the void.  There’s a void in the world: the Lord Jesus Christ.  When He’s not in the centre, there’s emptiness, death, confusion, addiction, hatred, racism, and many other things.  But the void is to be filled by the Church and the King, as we lift Him up and declare Him.  I believe convergence worship is the healing of the Church: it’s the streams of the Church – evangelical, charismatic, and sacramental-liturgical – coming back together.  We can see it most clearly in church space, a Kingdom space.  The arts are in the architecture, the music, the worship, the sermon, the Eucharistic feast and the Sacraments of all forms. 

This is of the most value, because as we begin to pursue this in the earth, we somehow meet with God, the Grand Architect of all things.  He pours out His grace and takes our offering, however meagre it is, mixes it with our faith – which goes beyond what we have – and pours out His presence on it.  It’s there that we transcend the earth, where we’re between heaven and earth, where we’ve lifted up our hearts – and what’s in our heart but what is sacred, what’s important to us?  Worship is understanding the King’s worth-ship: He’s worthy of it all. 

Prophetic signs

As people of God, we must be prophetic in the earth, prophetically speaking with what we put in place and say is important, to a world that doesn’t understand where they are.  We’re a sign for those looking for the path to God.  Jesus says, “I am the Way and the truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Sometimes we need to see signs of where to get to Jesus, so we can go through Him to the Father.  We need Baptism so we can be baptized into Jesus; we need His Eucharistic feast along the way, so we’re people who are pursuing, fed and nourished by the Vine as we’re the branches.  Space is very important: we honour and recognise that God gave Adam dominion on the earth.

A cathedral or church becomes an embassy.  We’re ambassadors of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-20), saying you can be reconciled with God and one another; we’re coming from an embassy, which is like having a place in foreign territory.  We’re strangers and sojourners, people on a journey; but we say we come from a King and bear the signs of peace: we bear an olive branch and say, you no longer have to live as if there’s no God.  Not only can I lead you to God, but I can lead you to God’s people.  I don’t need to have all the answers, because I have a church that teaches and trains me; I can bring you in and help you find the peace that’s so often eluded you. 

God is calling

I believe the CEC in Europe is about to see some of its best days.  God is calling into place vocations, young people called to find their place in the Church as laity and clergy.  Young men will take up their role and say, in my hour of service I was called to pastor a church, to help lead, to shoulder this cross.   We need to look for those vocations.  Part of making them known is that young altar-boys say, this is where I’m supposed to be; and later in life they’ll say, I need to be here all the time – it’s where God’s called me to be.  In the Church you start to serve God and serve others, and realise that your life is to be given in the service of the King and His people.  

We’re called not only to love God with all our mind, soul and spirit, but to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Part of that is bearing our neighbour, bearing their sorrows, griefs, their unkindness sometimes, their persecution, in a sense to suffer with Christ.

It’s a place…

  • where we expect to see signs, wonders and streaking marks of His divine presence; where we have testimonies, where we’re calling into the generations something that’s bigger than us.  We’ll be gone soon, but to the generations we leave a mark that says, this is why, this is what; if you want to know what’s important, this is important.  
  • where God’s people gather, His Spirit moves among and in His people, and words of knowledge, tongues, interpretations and prophetic utterance comes forth regularly
  • where God’s people are changed not into a better version of themselves but a brand new creature, made to image God in the earth – they’ll know we’re Christians by our love 

What is He calling you to do?

Anywhere the Church isn’t highly persecuted, it can be above ground and have a very viable presence.  The Church needs to do what it can to put up its best.  I encourage each of you to pray and ask the Lord what He designs for your church and sees for your future.  Share it with your bishop, and support it with your lives, your finances, time and efforts and your joy.  Trust that God will meet you on that mountain: it will be bigger than what you can do on your own, but He’ll meet you there, and give you a good measure pressed down and running over; He’ll make it enough.  You have a great bishop; he has a lot of need and little resource, but faith is a tremendous resource.  I ask you to act upon and pray about that; and ask the Lord to give you a vision of how you can help, and what God is asking for.

© 2024 - Diocese of Europe - The International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church

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