Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Sacred Shines Through When Least Expected!

I spent more than 10 years as a chaplain at Winnipeg's Health Science's Centre, our city's largest tertiary care hospital. Part of my job was conducting Sunday worship services. Our congregations varied from week to week. When I began doing services in late 90s there were often only one or two people present. When I left the hospital a decade later, we averaged 10 or 12 people a service, and sometimes 20 or more.

Each week I created a four-page leaflet, which contained the liturgy for the service, a 600 word reflection, and a couple of shorter items.  I figured that if the patients were going to a church in the community they'd receive a leaflet, so I wanted to ensure that patients at HSC got a leaflet at least as good as what they'd get at a community church. Over the years I learned patients valued the leaflets, often using them during the week for their own devotions, or sharing them with other patients on the wards.

While sorting through some papers recently I came across the leaflet for the last service I did at HSC. The short item at the bottom of the first page  depicts what I observed in Burger King when a group of high school students connected with a young mom and her baby. For me it was a poignant reminder that the sacred is all around us, even at Burger King! I want to share that item with you now:

Experiencing the Sacred at Burger King

They could have been the teenagers who often strike adults as cynical before their time, world-weary and worn, and lost in thoughts of themselves, except this noon in Burger King there was a difference. Expressing wonder and the innocent happiness of those much younger, these youth with their enthusiasm and great caution passed among them a baby. The boys, as much as the girls, clamored for their turn to hold the little one. As for the babe, yet to see his first birthday, he seemed quite content with the attention and love directed his way. These youth, I thought, wonderfully demonstrated Jesus' teaching to welcome the children - and to be childlike. When least expected, the sacred shines through!

Though I mention Jesus, and use the word sacred, one need not be a Christian, or even religious, to appreciate what happened in Burger King that day. Sacred means special, and what I saw was very special indeed.

Sacredness most often reveals itself in the deep connections between people, and allows us to see both what we are at our best, and what we may become. What I saw at Burger King was serendipity, and reinforced for me the importance of continually being open to the sacred, whether we are religious or not.

That experience was also a powerful reminder of the importance of children and youth, and the responsibility we adults have to do well by them.

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