A Sanctuary Day for our Times: Session 1
4 months ago
Seeking Sanctuary: the first of four retreat sessions for individuals and groups to process and pray through their experience of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first of four retreat sessions for use individually or in small groups. Each session can stand alone, though each leads on to the next in sequence. Together they are designed to give space for you to process your experience of the coronavirus crisis.
Each session can take as little as 30 minutes, or you may want to set aside a longer time. The material here is designed to give some shape and structure in which to focus your thoughts and your prayer. Please stick with it if it serves you well, or depart from it if that is how the Holy Spirit leads you. What matters is that you find a sufficient stillness in which to listen deeply to God, and to respond to Him.
For personal use
For use in Groups
Find a quiet and comfortable place in which to pray. You will need your Bible and a notebook or journal. If you would like to use the suggested music and video links you will need an internet connection and your phone, tablet or computer. Or you may want to choose your own music, or spend the time in silence. The words for the retreat can be printed from HERE. Suggestions on how to use the time between sessions if you are doing all four in one day OR how to spread each session over a half or full day of retreat will be available soon.
Find a quiet and suitable place for the group to meet. You will each need your Bible and a notebook or journal and a copy of the retreat programme and words, a hard copy of which can be printed HERE. You will need an internet connection, and a speaker to play the music videos from the links on this page. If you are meeting as a Zoom Group the Host can share the screen and audio for the music videos. Suggestions on how to use the time between sessions if you are doing all four in one day OR how to spread each session over a half or full day of retreat will be available soon.
Start in silence and stillness. Allow your mind to settle and to focus. Invite the Holy Spirit to draw near to you and to guide your thoughts. Open your hands and your heart to welcome the Lord.
Let the music draw you into a place of deeper stillness and into God’s closer presence.
Read Mark 1:29-39
Notice first of all how Jesus responds to the news that Simon Peter’s mother in law is unwell with a fever. He is almost certainly tired from his ministry in the synagogue. He is starting to attract crowds of people to listen to His teaching and to receive healing and freedom. News about him is spreading far and wide. Yet, when he is told about one woman’s suffering He is quick to respond. The crowds are already searching Him out. By sunset the whole of Capernaum will be gathered in at His door. But for a while, and not just a fleeting moment, His whole attention is on just one person. He makes time for her. He turns aside to her. He visits her in her private space. He reaches out to her. He takes her by the hand and makes her well. This is a deeply personal and intimate encounter, in the midst of a busy, public ministry.
Notice too how Jesus seeks out time with His heavenly Father. He would have had every excuse after the demands of the evening before to put sleep ahead of prayer. But He rises early, before dawn, and walks to a place in which He won’t be disturbed and where He couldn’t easily be found. Here, as was so often His morning pattern, He prayed. We might say that this solitary place was His sanctuary. It was a privilege akin to, greater than, that enjoyed by the High Priest in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, when he entered into the holiest place of God’s presence. Quite simply, Jesus needed sanctuary time. He needed time apart with His heavenly Father. He needed to be where God was, and where earth touched heaven. Indeed, He needed a rhythm of sanctuary in His life, so that all that He did came from a place of attentive listening and fresh encounter, day by day. Only from such a place could He say, when the voices around Him insisted otherwise, “let’s go somewhere else” today.
In your imagination put yourself in the place of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, as Jesus comes to her. What do you see and how do you feel? What is your “fever”? Where does life hurt at the moment? Invite Jesus to come close to you now, in the power of His Spirit. Welcome His presence and open yourself to His healing touch and tender words. Know that you are loved.
In the Old Testament the sanctuary is either the tabernacle or Jerusalem temple in its entirety or it is the most holy place, beyond the curtain, where only the High Priest could go once a year. In either case it was a place set-apart to meet with God, the place where God’s glory dwelt. In Christ we can draw very close, through the torn curtain of Jesus’ broken body. Indeed, we are ourselves God’s temple, the place where God’s Spirit lives. What is your rhythm of sanctuary, amidst all the other routines of life?
Listen to the song ‘O, the deep, deep love of Jesus’
Be still in the sanctuary, in the presence of the Lord.
Pray for those who need the living Jesus to draw near to them. Pray for all those lamenting the loss of loved ones, the ravaging of their health; the restrictions on their freedoms; the absence of peace; the changes in church during the pandemic.
Take stock. Make notes. How has God spoken? What have you felt? What will you take with you into life and into further prayer from this time apart, this time in the sanctuary?
To finish, return to the quiet music with which this first session began.
For further thought and prayer
“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4:15,16 The Message
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” 1 Cor 6:19,20 New International Version
“O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and in rest we shall be saved and in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: by the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord” J. W Suter, based on Isaiah 30:15 and Psalm 46:10
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Enabling little, local and ordinary churches to engage with the Holy Spirit for renewal, discipleship and mission.