On Faith: Breathe deep because Zion is all around us

June 15, 2012|By Mark Wiley

She called our church.

She wanted to rent our sanctuary. She was getting married.

"I go to church, and I love my church, but it doesn't feel like a church," she said. "It doesn't look like a church, it's just a space."

I knew what she wanted.

She wasn't asking for more holy space or for the space to feel more churchy. She wasn't saying her church was ugly or that it needed stained glass windows. She was asking for the sense of peace and well-being that comes from grandeur. She was asking for Zion.


The name Zion has deep roots. It's an ancient Hebrew word. It means refuge, shelter, sanctuary.

But it can also mean fortress or strong place. Zion was the name of the mountain that became the city of Jerusalem. I suppose you could say it's a nickname for the city of Jerusalem: a city that is considered sacred by three different religions.

Mt. Zion is the place where Mohammed returned from a visit to heaven, where King David built the Temple, and where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. So the name became theological shorthand; the place where we can touch and be touched by God.

Think of it as the front porch of Heaven. It's the first taste of a place where everything is good and right and safe and lovely.

When people visited Zion National Park, they had that same feeling. The cliffs of Zion National Park are spectacular. They rise 2,500 feet above the valley floor. The red and white cliffs stand as cathedral spires reaching toward heaven.

The adventuresome can hike along those cliff faces. They can walk on a narrow ledge traversing the mountain face and find hidden canyons, and waterfalls.

The less adventuresome, those willing to get waterlogged, can hike along the stream that will take you in between the cliffs where you will find rocks swirled and sculptured. Breathe deep because the next view will take your breath away.

This place is so spectacular, so wondrously grand, and so awesome that breathing itself seems a holy activity. That's what she was looking for. It's what we all look for. The place we can call Zion, a sanctuary, a refuge, safety.

But it's oh so hard to find. Life interrupts. Chaos arrives. Bad things happen.

We find ourselves in a horror not of our own making. We begin searching: changing churches, values, families, institutions, in hopes of finding Zion. But it eludes us. And, oh so easy to lose.

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