“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” So said Winston Churchill in 1943. Most of our church buildings are large open spaces with high ceilings. Ever wonder why? They cause no end of trouble for church wardens, who fret over heating inefficiency and fall arrest systems. But from a spiritual perspective, these sacred spaces speak to a deeper truth: that before God, we are precious and yet we are so very, very small. In our churches, as in nature, for a brief moment we can be lifted beyond our own petty concerns and given a new perspective of diminishment that often leads to connectedness. In our reading today, Jesus tells a story about two people who prayed. One had the profound privilege of growing spiritually through an encounter with God, while the other only experienced further isolation.
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage.
Luke 18:9-14 NRSV
9 Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- How do you feel when you enter your worship space? What do you smell, sense, hear, see and touch as you move into sacred space?
- Have you ever experienced the spiritual phenomena of “self-diminishment,” or of feeling humbled before the vastness and almightiness of God the creator? Describe.
- With so much political polarization in society, it is easy to feel superior. If we are honest, who might we be glad we are not like? Are they other Christians, from other faiths, from other political parties, or are they those who have no faith?
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
Conclude by offering a prayer that includes silence.
Almighty God, we come before you in prayer.
In this moment of silence help us quiet our thoughts and humbly be present to you. (Allow for at least 30 seconds to one minute of quiet.)
Let me have too deep a sense of humour to be proud.
Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.
Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human,
and most worthy of your serious consideration. Amen.
– Daniel A. Lord, SJ
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Word has been known in your time together.