Last week, we tackled the difficult idea of finding Holy Ground in one another, esp. those we don’t really like or agree with, or perhaps even hate or fear. Did you have any luck in looking for Christ in someone you typically have trouble dealing with? It calls for a bit of dying to self to do that, doesn’t it?
With All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) just around the corner, it is a good time to ponder how exactly we can find Holy Ground in death and loss. Whether that is physical death of a loved one, death of a dream or hope, or just ‘dying to self’ it can be a holy time.
The ancient Celts, whose practices gave birth to the celebration of Halloween, believed that this season of the year was a ‘thin time’. It is a time when the veil between the living and dead is pulled aside and the dead can return to their homes. Other cultures have similar practices. The Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations are based on the idea that the dead need fed and nurtured at this time of year. Chinese families also leave food offerings for their dead relatives. All these practices recognize that the past, and esp. our ancestors, have an impact on our lives now.
In the Disney movie Mulan, the Ancestors awaken when Mulan takes her father’s place as a warrior. She is willing to put herself at risk to save her father’s life. It is only in letting go of the cultural restrictions that Mulan becomes who she really is. It is not as a woman dressed as a man, but as a woman, that she ultimately saves China and the Emperor from the invading Huns.
Perhaps our forbearers, both familial and in the faith, can help us find the way to Holy Ground, when the veil is thin. Recognition of the thin space between preserving our life as status quo and denying ourselves for the greater good is Holy Ground.
In Luke 9: 23-25, Jesus tells his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
It is not easy to follow this teaching. There is so much in the world that encourages us to put ourselves first. This product or that one will make you beautiful or popular or rich or even famous. Jesus’ followers are told to live in exactly the opposite way. To ‘deny themselves’ and love one another. That will almost certainly lead to being counter-cultural. Denying our desires and wants in order to honor the Holy Ground in someone else is not easy. Maybe it’s simply letting someone merge in traffic when you are in a hurry, or allowing another person to get the closer parking space at Walmart. Or it could be standing up for the rights of the homeless, the poor, the sick, the abused and thereby becoming one of ‘those’ radical activists.Take a few minutes to think about the impact of the faith, or lack of faith, in your family tree. How has Holy Ground been nurtured in your by family or friends throughout your life? Can you recognize times when your family or friends did ‘deny themselves’ so that you could prosper? What one thing can you do this week to ‘deny yourself’?