Sermons on thin place
Our work is to place our “no’s” at the threshold, and give them to God, fully release and open them to God’s creative work. This can be hard work, for we often feel defeated and overwhelmed with our own “no’s” or those society says to us. But God’s “yes” is waiting for us.
How we define our origin story matters. If we find ourselves telling our narratives beginning with a God in relationship with us who is loving, attentive, and creative, then our life will unfold in a more loving, attentive, and creative way, and we find we are then bearing the image of God into the world with faithfulness. Our lives can be messy along the way; it can feel chaotic and out of control; it can yearn for certainty and order and when we find that desire thwarted by the creative force of God, it can feel very disorienting. But this is also a most alive place to be, for it is one when we are often most open to love, most able to live into the source of inspiration, most able to see the doors flung open around us, most able to see the God within.
The holes in Jesus’ hands and the sword-inflicted wound in his side, from which blood and water flowed, showed Thomas that he is not asked to believe in a God whose new life in Jesus obliterated the worst of humanity, pushing aside the ugliness and violence , ignoring the places of pain or horror or absence, but rather to believe in a God who went into that brokenness and breathed the possibility of new life into all the shattered places, because that’s how the resurrection can make a difference to us.
There are moments in our lives, sometimes fleeting or seemingly nearly beyond our grasp, when we catch a glimpse of something beyond the ordinary, when everything lines up and everything seems right. We may describe these moments as “being in the flow”, or of a sense of wholeness or peace that overcomes us, or experiencing a surge of newness, or a spark of creativity, or a place of deep and holy nourishment, or stumbling into a thin place. These come to us by grace, for we can never orchestrate them, but only enter into them when they are revealed to us. While in these states, we are experiencing what this Forest Season of Creation is all about – that living place where nourishment abounds, where both birth and death happen, where the life-force is strong, where there is a sense of being held as part of a greater whole.
Jesus stands in prayer a few yards away. And as he reaches his hands up to God, his face is transfigured. A strange, but beautiful glow. And his clothes, they are transformed too. They now dazzle as if the weaver had captured lightning, blended it with the fabric, and woven it into the garment. And then, as if this was not enough supernatural phenomena for one day, the Hebrew lawgiver, Moses, and the greatest of the prophets, Elijah, emerge from nowhere and converse with Jesus. What a day it was.
These questions of “Does including the new and different mean that we are letting go of the values that have always defined us? Or do the values that define us compel us to be more inclusive and open?” represent a major turning point in the story of the early church. It is also the crux of much of the turmoil in the contemporary church as it takes little imagination to see how this same question applies to many of the controversies the Episcopal Church has walked through recently. The Episcopal Church continues Peter’s work by continually making the circles ever wider.
I once remember living in mid-air. I was wholly terrified and equally exhilarated. I felt unprotected, yet strangely safe. I felt as though my world had cracked open and the contents of my life’s story had came spilling out, never to be reassembled with the same plot, without even a glimpse of the new stories yet to be written.
They can see it, feel it, and even if they didn’t recognize this divine energy constituting Jesus as the Messiah, they reached for it. They asked the questions, “May I just reach for the fringe of his cloak”, or “May I sneak in to steal a bit of healing”. They weren’t stealing anything. They were receiving freely offered compassion, God’s greatest gift. Jesus was able to turn to the sheep without a shepherd with compassion.
Now the people in Nazareth are neither especially bad, nor blind, nor particularly unreceptive. They made a mistake many of us are prone to. They expected the ordinary, a human being, to do ordinary things. Or they expected extraordinary things to be done by extraordinary people. Not an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. They took Jesus at face value. They remembered Jesus as the kid who lived two doors down, who kicked the ball in the streets with his friends, or could be found in his father’s shop, learning the carpenter trade. The people of Nazarene couldn’t look beyond Jesus’ ordinariness to figure out how he could do extraordinary things. Instead they dismissed the whole package.