Expanding Sacred Space

Expanding Sacred Space

Jesus journeyed beyond the typical and expected places to seek and save the broken, wandering, and hurting. Though Jesus did teach at the Temple and the synagogue, he also gained a reputation for being found in the company and at the parties of those with whom upstanding spiritual leaders were not supposed to consort. He “eats with sinners and tax collectors” became the equivalent of the first century hashtag applied to critique or dismiss him and his ministry. Jesus tended to reach beyond conventional circles of faith and befriend those usually shamed, alienated, or condemned by the devout in the faith. Yet we do not.

The author of Hebrews points us to Jesus “outside the camp” of the People of God. For the faithful, this would have been a picture of Jesus moving beyond the appropriately sanctioned place of worship and religious life of Jerusalem and its Temple. However, when the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness, to be outside of the camp was where the tabernacle was located [Ex. 33:7], where those unclean were sent [Lev. 13:46, Num. 5:4], and where blasphemers were sent [Lev. 24:14]. It was also where the scapegoat for the People’s sin was sent [Lev. 16:10].

It is easy to allow our Divinely inspired imaginations to follow the author of Hebrews insight. Jesus is the one who tabernacled among us. Hebrews never cites the specific language of the temple, but always of the tabernacle. And so Jesus is tabernacling, bringing God’s Presence, outside the camp. Jesus lived a life in community with those deemed culturally and spiritually unclean by his own faith community. Jesus was accused of blasphemy by those in power in his faith community [Mk. 14:64]. And Hebrews 10:1-18 has already invited us to envision how Jesus’ sacrifice of his life is the fulfillment of the scapegoat system for atonement of sin.

For a time, where many Hebrews would have considered Jerusalem and the temple the height of holiness and God’s Presence on earth… the author of Hebrews invites us to follow Jesus outside of Jerusalem. Jesus is beyond the borders and boundaries of conventional faith suffering to bring redemption to the whole world. In essence, Jesus is expanding the places where we can have sacred and transformative encounters. And he is doing it among “those” people. Whomever “those” people may be for you. And lets be honest with ourselves, we ALL have someone who fits under “those” people for us. We are invited to follow Jesus to places beyond our comfort zones and to people who do not fit into our pre-approved categories. There we too will endure suffering and persecution in the name of the One who died, once for all, so that a broken, divided, violent, exploitive, vindictive, self-centered, oppressive, and sinful humanity could be redeemed and reconciled to God and to one another.

Christopher Mack