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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Remember the Sacred

To this day, words are inadequate to express what I experienced.

I was 11-years old. It was another day at school. I preferred to be on the baseball field rather than in a classroom.

Anywhere but the classroom was more attractive to me!

But that spring day, I had no idea of what I was to encounter.

Counting the minutes until the school bell rang, signaling my release from misery, I couldn’t wait to head home.

Mom would have a slice of freshly baked bread — just pulled from the oven – smothered with butter and brown sugar. I would just have time to enjoy the snack, grab my glove, and join my friends at the ball field for a quick pick-up game.

Sprinting home as fast as I could, a man dressed in solid black with a white collar stopped me less than a block from my house. He was standing on the stoop of a church. “Son, will you help me carry a small table into the sanctuary?” he asked.

My parents had taught me to be courteous to adults. Resisting the urge to tell him I didn’t have time because I had to get to the ball field, I said: “Yes sir.”

We walked into the church, took a right turn, and headed down a flight of stairs to a storage room. Together, we lifted the small, but somewhat heavy, table and ascended the stairs, stopping in front of the sanctuary doors.

As the Priest opened the large doors, I was struck by the beauty of the sanctuary. I audibly gasped. Gazing with amazement, I was speechless.

Stunning, alluring, inviting, appealing, exquisite, splendid, captivating, breathtaking, amazing, glorious were not common words I used as a boy. Even now, words seem inadequate to express the overwhelming “awe” I had at that moment.

God must live here, I thought.

I think of that experience often. I pray I will not forget it.

My experience on that spring day was more than ornate beauty. It was more than a kind and caring Priest dressed so differently than my father (or other pastors and preachers I knew). It was more than church architecture.

That spring day, I became aware of the Holy.

A sacred encounter with God’s presence will always capture your attention. Just ask Isaiah:

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two, they covered their faces, and with two, they covered their feet, and with two, they flew.[1]”

Isaiah’s experience with God’s holiness is so overwhelming, his sinfulness overtakes him. The presence of God’s righteousness is so powerful even angels cover their faces (Isaiah 6:5).

It rarely occurs to me to appreciate the sun. This summer, with over 40-days of temperatures of 110-degrees or higher, I’ve been more inclined to curse the sun, rather than be thankful for it.

Tim Sharp reminds us: “The sun is ninety-three million miles away, and you are unable to stare at it.”⁠[2]

Imagine living in a world without the sun. The sun offers warmth and danger. It is so powerful — even 93-million miles away, you can’t stare at it. You can’t touch the sun and live. But we would be dead without the sun.

How often do we fail to embrace the mystery that God — more powerful than the sun — desires to be with us? And how often do we go through the day without even an awareness of God’s holiness? Scottish theologian, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us:

“God’s holiness means He is separate from sin. But holiness in God also means wholeness. God’s holiness is His ‘God-ness.’ It is His being God in all that it means for Him to be God. To meet God in His holiness, therefore, is to be altogether overwhelmed by the discovery that He is God, and not man.”

When we are looking for solutions for our world’s (and our) issues, perhaps it would do each of us well to remember the sacred and be overtaken with God’s holiness.

Like Isaiah, a sacred encounter with God always reveals His holiness and our sinfulness.


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Is 6:1–2.

[2] Tim Sharp, “How Far Is Earth from the Sun?,, October 18, 2017,

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