Walking through the Chelsea Market in lower Manhattan, you discover a sign which, on a hectic day, sounds inviting. Or should.
For many people, however, the word sanctuary is far from comforting. THE sanctuary is the place where we are to be most unlike ourselves. We are to be quiet, to be respectful, to not tell jokes, to expect lightening strikes, to expect scolding, to wear uncomfortable clothing, to shush small children. Sanctuary for many people means anything but, well, sanctuary.
Understood best, sanctuary is a safe place, a refuge. There have been, from time to time, cities of sanctuary. These are places that people can run for safety. A place where no one can attack you. A place to catch your breath and get your bearings. In the old days, churches were sanctuaries in this sense. You could run to the church and no one could pursue you.
How ironic, then, that church has become an unsafe place, a dangerous place. If we want to be safe, to be comfortable, church is the last place that most people consider. Church is a place to be attacked, to be judged, to be deceived.
I know. Sounds harsh. But that is what people say.
Part of the problem is that church isn’t a place, it’s supposed to be a people. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the people, who are called to be where God lives, aren’t being very livable.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place of refuge? A place where you could go and be safe?