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Sacred encounter

Sacred encounter

Sacred encounter

12 March 2017

Jesus's compassion models a new way to see the sacredness of everyone we meet. Photo: Forrest Cavale.

By Major Jo-anne Brown

He knelt and wrote on the ground. The crowd drew breath and waited. They hadn’t expected this. He should be joining in with the condemnation, even picking up his own stone!

The woman was clearly at fault and the requirements were clear. He should know this!

Silence.

One by one the crowd melted away until Jesus was left alone with the woman. In the quietness, there was no condemnation, no discussion of guilt, no sermon on repentance or penance – just the simple admonition: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:1-11).

Sacred encounter.

In the midst of a teaching session comes the opportunity to live out the truths of the Gospel. A compassionate Jesus, neither ignoring nor exploiting sin, embodies the God of compassion and offers a new way forward.

Each encounter with Jesus was sacred and offered new opportunity. He noticed, he stopped, he questioned and he touched people he encountered as he lived his life. His touch and his presence brought healing, hope and restoration.

We often consider “sacred” to indicate what is set apart for the worship of God. In the Old Testament the word sacred was used frequently to describe the temple, the objects used to worship in the temple, the clothing the priests wore in the temple, the incense used in temple worship, etc.

The word “sacred” is used far less frequently in the New Testament – perhaps because sacredness was most clearly seen in the person of Jesus Christ, more than in any material object.

Jesus himself is sacred: set apart for God’s purpose, closely and intimately connected with God. Connection with God was now more than ever seen in everyday life, through connection with Jesus. Jesus, sacred and set apart for God’s purpose, is the true and radiant reflection of God himself, the “exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Compassion is at the heart of who God is.

The Psalmist sings of this all-encompassing experience of God: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalms 86:15). The Old Testament is a rich history of this compassion. And in Jesus we have the very embodiment of this compassion.

He showed compassion on the crowds, on those who needed healing, and to many others he encountered on the journey. His compassion was expressed through meeting physical needs (providing food for a crowd, Matthew 14:14), ministering healing (Matthew 20:34), or expressing love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Jesus was always true to who he was: the exact representation of God’s being. Every encounter was sacred because every encounter brought the fullness of God into the presence of the other. Every encounter was the opportunity to live out the power of the Gospel – through word, touch, healing or deliverance.

Always, an encounter with Jesus left the other with the hope of something else – although not everyone realised or embraced this.

As followers of Jesus, we hold within us his sacred presence. Thus all of life is sacred. His presence within us means that there is no time or place that is not sacred. There is no encounter that is not sacred.

Just as Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being, so also are we, as his followers, a reflection of God. For us, too, then, each encounter is sacred encounter as we bring the presence of God into wherever we are, and as we live out the compassion that he embodied.

If Christ lives within us then we cannot fail to bring Christ to whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. Perhaps the key thing is our own awareness of this truth, and recognising that as we encounter others, we stand on sacred ground and hold out the light, the truth and the transformation that is found in Christ.

Every place we stand is sacred because Christ is there with us. Every encounter is sacred, because we bring to it the very presence of God.

Read our previous article on Heather Cook's ministry of sacred encounter.

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