Hallowed ground

August 8, 2012

For the past 15 years (almost every year) I have spent a week at Camp Crestfield with a group of youngsters from our church and from other churches in our community. Their ages range from those having just completed 3rd grade to those having completed 8th grade. There are also a group of adults who come up here from our community to staff the camp, counsel the campers, take care of medical needs, perform music… Crestfield is located outside of Slippery Rock PA, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this week is to introduce or strengthen ties to the Christian faith. There is quite a legacy of young people who have attended this camp going back over 30 years.

Do you know the word “hallowed”? It’s not a word that is used much these days and I would suggest it is rarely if ever used outside of the church. The word means “holy”, or “sacred”. You can almost hear the word “holy” in “hallowed”. Many of us use this word weekly if we attend church and our tradition calls for reciting the Lord’s Prayer, i.e., “Hallowed be thy name.” And if you ever memorized the Gettysburg address you might remember that it is used in that famous speech as well. “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

For many, Camp Crestfield is “hallowed ground”. It is the place that represents some of their most significant and intense encounters with God. Maybe It’s the place they met God for the very first time. I’m going to guess that many of us have these places… “Holy places”. Frankly, Crestfield is not a “holy place for me.” It represents a place I come with young people for camp each year. My hallowed ground is in other places. Laurelville, a Mennonite camp outside of Mount Pleasant PA. I have opportunity to go there on occasion and each time I pull onto the property my heart rejoices and my spirit soars. I remember sitting on a specific rock over 40 years ago pouring my heart out to God. It was the place that I went with other young Christian friends in High School where I was discipled and loved unconditionally.

On occasion I have returned to the church that my family attended when I was young. I remember sitting in the pew with my grandmother as she desperately tried to keep me and my sisters busy with crayons, gum and anything else that might distract us and keep us quiet. I have sat in that pew as an adult… by myself… with tears running down my face recalling a long ago time with loved ones who are only memories now. I don’t know if that church represents a “hallowed” place for me, but it surely causes nostalgia to wash over me.

I wonder do you have any “hallowed” places in your life? Locations that represent God and His awesome presence in the world and in your life? If so, I think It’s not a bad idea to visit those places on occasion. When was the last time you were there? If it’s possible (it isn’t always) why not take some time in the next few weeks to go to your “hallowed” place? Remember the time when God was so close you could reach out and touch Him. It will likely do you good!

Psalm 77 is one of my favorites Psalms. Notice the author is in some sort of distress and is crying out to God. They wonder in the midst of their distress if God will remember them?!?! But notice how they deal with their problem… in verse 10f they decide to remember a time when God was so close they could almost reach out and touch Him. A “holy memory” if you will. Friends, where are your hallowed places? I truly hope and pray that you have at least one.

Psalm 77

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

1 I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.

3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. 5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. 17 The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. 18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. 19 Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

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