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Weekly Devotional

Not Separate

Reflection by Liz Garrigan-Byerly

There is one God who is Lord of all, over all, through all and within all.

In the summer of 2000 I spent three weeks in Salzburg, Austria, studying the city’s art, architecture and history. One evening we attended a Mass at St Peter’s Abbey Church. Nestled in the heart of the city, the sanctuary is grand and ornate, every surface intricately painted, carved or wrapped in gold. The choir sang a Bach Mass and it sounded as if the heavens themselves were singing. Although we each came from different religious backgrounds, each member of our class felt transported by the experience.

Afterward, we walked across the courtyard to the St. Peter Stiftskeller, one of the oldest continuously operating restaurants in Europe. We drank local wine, ate decadent dessert and laughed until we couldn’t stop. At the end of the evening I said that we had gone from the sacred to the silly in 15 steps, and the phrase caught on in our group. Sacred to silly: two opposites on a spectrum.

Since then, I’ve come to see more and more that the two are not so separate. We have the opportunity to encounter God in everything. The sacred--that which is of God or related to God—does not only exist in beautiful cathedrals or in glorious music. Certainly there are times that call for reverence and times that call for laughter; times for us to sing somberly and times for us to sing joyously. But each experience is a chance to encounter God.

The laughter we shared around that table in an old restaurant was sacred. Our hike down the Alps, complete with a snowball fight in July, was sacred. Our tour of a WWII concentration camp was sacred, painfully so. Our walk to a pilgrimage church in a meadow of wildflowers was sacred too. God is over and through and within all.

 Prayer: God of all, thank you for the breadth of human experience. Tune our hearts to sense your presence in all of it. Tune our lives to reflect your presence and our voices to sing your praise. Amen.

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