When I traveled in the Ukraine in 1992 I visited an Orthodox church in Kiev and asked to see the church’s missions. I anticipated the priest would show me the soup kitchen downtown and homeless shelter in the church’s basement. If I’d asked a minister in the U.S. to show me the church’s mission, that would be the logical response. Instead, the Orthodox priest took me to the sanctuary.
This was a powerful lesson! The clear message is that from the sanctuary missions begin. From the sanctuary we move out into the world. That’s the progression. It all starts with prayer worship. We start, like Mary, by sitting at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:42). We start with wonderment.
The best way to have endurance for a life of service is consistent renewal through prayer or worship. Prayer/worship and service share the same symmetry as Jesus’ Divinity and humanity. Authentic Christianity doesn’t separate them. They’re two sides of one coin. We begin in the sanctuary or the meditation hall and end up in the soup kitchen. We begin with devotion to prayer and proceed to acts of justice and compassion.
I am reminded of a sign above a door as I exited a sanctuary. It said: “Worship has ended. Let the service begin!”