Is Anything Sacred Anymore?

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When I used to visit with my grandmother in her home, we’d always sit in the TV room, where the news would be on in the “background.” Every now and then, a story would catch our attention, and she’d roll her eyes and remark, “Is anything sacred anymore?” She also felt that way about church once the “new” Prayer Book was introduced in 1979, and people started passing the peace in church.

Indeed, our secular and religious life in the United States has become less and less sacred in recent years. The decorum in politics has certainly hit an all-time low, to the dismay of some and to the delight of others. What are considered to be “good manners” is becoming more and more relative, and the prominence of text messaging (with the use of emoticons rather than words or sentences) is redefining the “sacredness” of sentence structure and grammar.

Since Vatican II in the 1960s (and the Protestant reforms that mirrored it), churches all over the world have embraced the drift away from sacred space, language, and customs/rituals. Many Protestant churches don’t even follow the Christian liturgical calendar any more, so Christmas comes without Advent, and Easter comes without the Lent. Those of us who still attempt to observe the holy season of Lent are oftentimes viewed as being unnecessarily pious, legalistic, or even hypocritical. After all, are all of the customs and rituals of the Lent really necessary for our salvation?

The quick answer is no – our rituals and customs are not necessary for our salvation. Our religious practices do not change God, nor do they change God’s mind about us. Our religious practices change us. They mold us. They transform us – If we allow them to.

So as we approach this holy season of Lent (which begins next week with Ash Wednesday), I challenge all of us to resist the trend away from all things sacred. I want, hope, and need for some things to remain sacred in this life. And I need holy seasons of fasting, prayer, and discipline to reground me in my faith, and to draw me closer to the presence of the Holy One who created me. I need to be reminded that “I am but dust, and to dust I shall return.” Taken alone, the season of Lent would be terribly incomplete. Our return to dust isn’t the end of the story. New life – resurrection – awaits. But the good, holy, sacred work of Lent prepares us for the glory of the empty tomb. At about the half-way point in Lent, I have to remind myself that I’m not doing this work to transform God – I’m doing it to transform myself. And I thank God for the sacred traditions, rituals, and customs of the church that encourage me to observe a Holy Lent.

See you Sunday!

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