For a Christian to declare, ‘everything is sacred’, affirms that all things have their source in God. Inviting respect and honour. It challenges the secular idea that ‘nothing is sacred’. It dispels the dualism of many religions that while some things are sacred everything else is profane. The notion of the ‘profane’ has no place in Christian Animism – everything is holy! If we speak of ‘sacred places’ we are only recognizing there can be particular concentrations of the Spirit within the world – nothing more.
Creation, we are told, was ‘by the word (dabr) of the Lord and the breath (ruach) of God's mouth’.1 This is by the very essence of divine being, which is holy (qadosh) – best translated as ‘unique’. This idea of ‘sacred’ can never be viewed as a neutral term; it must always be understood as expressing the qualities of divine character. This is captured by the profound angelic-prophetic cry in the book of Isaiah:
‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,
the whole earth is filled with God's glory’ 2
The word ‘glory’ (kabod) refers to the presence of God. It conveys the idea of ‘weight’ and ‘substance’, but also ‘beauty’, ‘brilliance’ and ‘outshining’. Kabod is often spoken of in terms of clouds, thunderstorms, lightning, fire and the noise of rushing water, but it is in fact to be found everywhere and in everything. Glory is the true heart of sacredness.
The biblical writers proclaim that, ‘the sky, even the highest skies cannot contain God’.3 This reminds us that Christian Animism is a ‘transcendent Animism’,4 towering and exalted. While at the same time the earth can also be spoken of as ‘the body of God’.5 Incarnation begins with creation.6 God becoming human in Jesus simply brings it into sharp focus. Jesus incarnation doesn't make matter sacred it shows it already is. Jesus' words about bread and wine emphasise this, “This is my body-blood”. It does not require special people saying special words for this to be true. It is also much more than just a symbol. The clearest demonstration that everything is sacred and communicates the divine: the body of God, the body of Christ in everything. The challenge is to recognise it!
If further emphasis is needed, hear these words:
‘For what can be known about God is plain …
Ever since the creation of the world God's eternal power
and divine nature, invisible though they are,
have been understood and seen through the things God has made’ 7
Creation incarnates God. ‘In whom we live and move and have our being’.8 This is not pantheism but panentheism. Wild-nature radiating the ‘eternal power’ and ‘divine nature’ of God to those whose senses and spirits are attuned. Sacredness is more than just about quality it is also about communication. See this in the story of Moses confronted by the ‘bush that burned but was not consumed’.9 We are called to be a ‘listening people to a speaking earth’.10
1 Ps 33:6
2 Isa 6:3
3 2 Chr 6:18
4 Wallace, M. 2005, Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature, Fortress; 15-18,43
5 McFague, S. 1993, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology, Fortress; 159-160
6 See Richard Rohr, ‘Creation as the Body of God’ in Vaughan-Lee, L (Ed). 2013, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, The Golden Sufi Centre; 235-241
7 Rom 1:19-20
8 Acts 17:28, Paul quoting the Pagan poet Epimendes
9 Ex 3:1-22
10 This phrase is an adaptation of the book title Harvey G. 1997, ‘Listening People, Speaking Earth: Contemporary Paganism’, Hurst