They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

All of Life is Sacred

Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof talking to God about his lame horse

Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof talking to God about his lame horse

Note: This is a wonderful and revealing rabbinical story, describing how the Jewish people look at life as it relates to God.

Your Last Hour

There was a rabbi who had three students. One day he posed them a question: “If you had just one hour remaining in your lifetime, what would you do in that one hour?” The first one read and studied, then answered the question: “I would spend that hour studying the Torah.” The second student closed his eyes, then answered the question,” I would spend that hour in the ecstasy of prayer.” The third one looked at the rabbi, then answered the question: “ I would spend that hour loving and being with my family.” The rabbi looked at his students, stroked his beard, and smiled; “Each of you has given a deep and holy answer.” But the students turned to the rabbi and asked him his question back.”What would you do in your last hour?” “Me? I would spend that hour doing what I’d been doing already, for all of life is sacred.”

This little story wonderfully illustrates the differences between an Eastern and Western mindset and the importance that religious activities play in our thinking and how we view it’s role in our daily lives. To the Hebrew mind there was no distinction between the sacred and secular areas of life. They saw all of life as belonging to God and all of it under his domain. All the circumstances of life came not by chance, but were controlled by the hand of a God that was intimately involved in their lives.

Prayer was the means by which the Jewish people stayed in tune with the concept that all of life was sacred. They uttered short sentence type prayers throughout the day, talking to God about every aspect of life. They had over 100 blessings that they could recite for every circumstance to thank God for everything from providing food to being able to go to the bathroom. They found the divine in the commonplace events of life, such as seeing a rainbow or hearing thunder. When Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”, this was what he was talking about.

This concept is hard for the Westerner to grasp. We have separated our religious life from our secular life. We are “in church” on Sunday morning and then go about our secular lives the rest of the week. If we talk about God during the week, we usually have a study or meeting to do it in. We have distinguished between clergy and lay people and the clergy are the only ones to think about religious things on a full time basis. We have sacred institutions and secular institutions and we spend time in both of them. Our prayers and thoughts towards God tend to be more compartmentalized to a prayer time or Bible study.

In the days ahead, try being more spontaneous in your thoughts toward God. Thank him for every event in life, good or bad, with a simple sentence prayer. See if it doesn’t make you more in tune with his daily provision for your life. Follow Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:17 when he said, “And whatever you are doing, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Sacred Places vs. Sacred Moments

In the pagan world of Bible times, sacred places were very important. If a pagan god did something at a particular place, worshippers would often construct an altar or temple on the location.

When God created everything, He did not create any sacred places (although He did set aside a sacred day, the Sabbath). God had sacred moments such as the burning bush, the experience on Mt. Sinai, and the Red Sea, but after each event took place they went back to being a bush, a mountain, and a sea.

In the centuries following Jesus’ ascension, Westerners have displayed a penchant for sacred objects and places. Beginning with the desire for Christian pilgrimage to the “Holy Land” during the Constantinian era, shrines, relics, and monuments dedicated both to Biblical stories and Christian martyrs became commonplace.

Peter's house at Capernaum

Church over Peter's house

In particular, Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, played a key role in the building of numerous churches and monuments on the location of Biblical events in Palestine – in addition to discovering Christ’s cross (and many other, similar relics).

Church built over Peter's house at Capernaum

Peter's house

Twelve hundred years after Constantine, Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” in opposition (at least in part) to relics and the practices which stemmed from their veneration. Today, most Christians still refer to Palestine as the “Holy Land”, implying that the ground is sacred. Even in our present day churches, we tend to think of them as sacred places. God is more interested in sacred moments. I am interested in hearing what you think – how do we build sacred moments instead of sacred places?