The Sacred Center of 7.5 and 70

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Incense, fragrance of frankincense and exotic smells, waft lazily into the arched ceiling of the Chapel. Vibrant colors, banners, of the Church season hang on the wall, lay across the sacramental altar of the Parish. Sacred music of an ancient hymn emanates from the grand piano, played through the modern technology of a computer. The Deacon led service, adeptly and (mostly) reverently assisted by the young acolyte is underway. Welcome to St. George Anglican Parish in the heart of the Alaskan interior. 

The 7.5 and the 70

The crowd is sparse, but fully engaged in the worship of our Creator and Redeemer. As the hymn continues to play, the seven-and-a-half-year-old boy and seventy something year old lady, sing with gusto, echoing the eternal, the sacred worship, of the service. And in the center of that personal and community worship, something sacred, something special, is taking place. In the center of that worship, others join in song, or prayer, or reflection, as they are drawn into the sacred center of the Presence of the Eternal King of kings. 

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There is an authentic and holy community in the midst of, surrounded by, and as a result of the 7.5 and the 70. It is authentic because there is a natural gathering of a cross-generational presence. Both have different needs, a diversity of expectations and experiences and probabilities. But there is community because each fully participates in the life of the other. Both come into the real presence of Christ, a holiness of incarnational presence surrounding and enveloping them. The seven-and-a-half-year-old boy worships like a child, full of expectations, wonderment, fitting his ever increasing familiarities of life into a robust encounter with a holy God. The seventy-year-old lady worships like a mature adult, bringing all of her wisdom, all of her hopes and dreams, her hurts and disappointments, to the altar of the Risen Christ. Different places of life. It is this very tapestry of ages, of backgrounds, of generational anticipations, that lead to a sacred center of worship on a Sunday morning. 

Sacred Worship

Together, this small band of disciples, spiritual sojourners, set the stage for a sacred expression of Christian worship. Each Sunday, this plays out in real time at St. George’s. I am incredibly privileged to lead this small group in a Deacon led eucharistic service from the reserved sacrament. It would be easy to lose sight of all this if one were to focus on the limitations: no Priest, no musicians, small crowd. But what we do have is Sacred. Special. Unique. Holy even. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

According to Britannica.com, sacred is “the power, being, or realm understood by religious persons to be the core of existence and to have a transformative effect on their lives and destinies.” While this is a great clinical definition of sacred, I believe there is something so much more going on during this service. There is a holiness, a transcendent, mysterious presence of the Holy Trinity that permeates the Chapel and each of our lives, both individually and corporately, on Sunday morning. 

Samuel and Simeon

Throughout Scripture, we see God working in mysterious ways and through the most unexpected people. 

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel, Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:1,10) 

Samuel, a young boy, is called directly by God to be a prophet to His people. Throughout his life, Samuel is used in mighty ways to direct the nation and her earthly King to repentance. How often does the Church today discount her youth by pulling them away from adult worship? How often does the Church today dismiss her young by protecting them from the call of the Holy Spirit, from the danger of serving the Holy, the Sacred, the Risen Christ. As Samuel, as David fighting Goliath, as a young virgin Mary opening her life to God, as so many others have discovered, there is no such thing as a teenage or a child Holy Spirit. 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
According to your word;
For my eyes have seen your salvation
That you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the gentiles,
And for glory to your people, Israel.” (Luke 2:25, 27-32)

How often does the Church miss out on the experience and wisdom of the elderly because it is more convenient to warehouse them in homes for the aging? Because it is inconvenient to bring the deaf, the blind, the infirm, the tottering walker-tethered, into the house of God. 

Samuel, a young boy, and Simeon, an old man, had nothing to offer to God. Samuel was not a man, not fully educated yet in the ways of God. Samuel was simply a servant boy, an acolyte if you will, to Eli. Unimportant. Not ready for prime time. Yet, God called Samuel, well before the world believed he was equipped, qualified, and ready, to be a prophet of God. 

Simeon, an old man, nearing the end of his life. He had nothing left to offer God. His body was failing. His strength had ebbed. He was simply an old man waiting to die. Yet Simeon is called to wrap his arms around the incarnated God, come to earth that he might die for our sins, and declare the prophetic vision of the Messiah for all people, the Jew and Gentile. 

The Glory of All Ages

Why would God call these two, the proverbial 7.5-year-old and the 70-year-old, to declare His glory, His presence, His prophetic voice to the King, to the Temple, to the religious leaders? Surely there were others, much more qualified, much more energetic and knowledgeable, with more resources to declare His glory to the world. 

Today, the Church would limit those who God would use. Today, the Church would know better than God who is ready, who is more able, who they would like to be the face of their congregation. And we miss the sacred center, the holiness imparted by God, in our midst. When we take matters into our own hands, we miss what God is doing in our midst. We miss the sacred. We miss the sacramental center of God’s presence in the life of the entirety of His family, of all ages. 

At St. George’s on a Sunday morning, the 7.5-year-old and the 70-year-old worship with unrestrained sacredness. They focus on the Real Presence of their Creator, their Redeemer, their Savior, on the lover of their soul. And in the center of that holy, sacred worship, the people on their left and right, in front of and behind them, find true worship. They find worship that they can enter, straight into the Presence of the Living God. 

Up front, a tired but refreshed Deacon, relishes the family of Christ in his midst. A young acolyte, more worship in that one young life, than many rooms filled with young people singing shallow praise choruses, prays, reads Scripture, assists in the preparation of the Eucharistic feast. A couple of older ladies, lovingly called The Matriarchs of St George, faithfully encourage and provide living examples of lives well-lived in Christ. A mom instructs and disciplines, and above all else, loves. A young woman explores faith in Christ. Individuals. Yet a family. 

What a glorious thing to find oneself in the sacred center of 7.5 to 70. 

Image by rawpixel.com

Published on

May 25, 2023

Author

Craig Daugherty

Craig Daugherty is a Deacon at St. George Parish at Fort Wainwright (Fairbanks), Alaska. He serves as the Director Religious Education for the U.S. Army and is also the Director of Formation for the Order of Saint Cuthbert.

View more from Craig Daugherty

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