I recently took part in in an afternoon’s spiritual retreat in the Karimu chapel in Holzhausen, Germany. The themes of the retreat were drawn from some of the features of the chapel: the pyramid in the roof, the windows, the wooden trinitarian sculptures and the table. All were deeply symbolic, encapsulating truth in an accessible, visual way. It’s the table I want to comment on here. Click on the image to see the full table (with a trinitarian sculpture in the background).
Battered and worn
The table is made of old railway sleepers. They are worn by wind and rain, sun and ice, and they are now built into a table in the sanctuary of our Lord, honouring and glorifying the Lord. We too are battered by life, and we too, battered and worn, chipped and scarred, are in the sanctuary, honouring and glorifying the Lord.
The imagery and symbolism goes deeper. Lashed by wind and rain, scorched by the summer sun, frozen by ice and snow, these railway sleepers weren’t going anywhere. But they enabled a journey. They were facilitators. They patiently and faithfully served their role and purpose. It was enabling the journeys of others that wore them out, that produced their deep imperfections. They had been strengthened for this task, injected and inwardly strengthened so they bore the pressure. Their pain and pressure enabled others to make their journey, their pilgrimage.
Make me a channel
We are those sleepers. As we patiently and faithfully serve as God’s facilitators, filled with the strength and courage of his Spirit, we enable the word of God to go forth, the Spirit of God to blaze and shine, the love of God to be spread abroad. Chipped and scarred, battled and bruised as we are, we serve, honour and glorify our Lord.
Richard Rohr (2016, loc.3658) comments, ‘I was so happy when I first preached in Germany and found out that my last name, Rohr, was translated as “conduit” or “pipe”. Alleluia!’ ‘We are each a transmitter station, a relay station,’ he writes. Not very good for the ego, but perfect for being part of God’s circle of praise.
Rohr, R. (2016) The Divine Dance: the Trinity and your Transformation. Center for Action and Contemplation.