Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thin Places

I’m in the middle of 2 and a half days out of town that are devoted to study, including the high level preparation for two sermons series this fall, and two new classes I’ll be teaching at church. Because I’m in the foothills of the Cascades, the days are punctuated by the rise and fall of wind. As the day warms, the trees outside the window begin to dance, sometimes wildly enough that cedar and fir needles float across the wind, glimmering as the pass through the shafts of light that penetrate the trees. Birds flutter. Squirrels nearly fly from tree to tree. This little patch of forest becomes a kaleidoscope, a light show, a celebration.

But at 5:30 in the morning, all is quiet. Not a sound. Not a movement of even a branch. I step outside and it’s cool enough to make my breath visible, even now in late July. Crisp. Still. Silent. These are the moments when, often, God speaks so clearly, so powerfully to me. I grind the beans, brew the coffee, and then simply sit and listen as I sip.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice” – the scripture comes to me clearly, almost audibly.

In the stillness, a profound awareness sweeps over me regarding how much God loves us – infinitely. And in that love, I’m reminded that God also longs for we who have come to know Christ to enter in – fully – to the life of grace, glory, freedom, fruitfulness, and joy that is ours in Christ. I’m suddenly aware of a ‘besetting sin’ in my life which needs to be confessed. This awareness leads to confession, and renunciation, and thanksgiving for forgiveness and the freedom that is available because of Christ.

These revelations and this exercise remind me of two important themes:

First, the value of solitude and silence. The Celtic church spoke of thin places, by which they meant places and times where the veil between the seen and unseen world was particularly permeable. I’m a bit suspicious of building a doctrine on someone’s experiences, but would heartily agree that some times and places are more conducive to encountering the reality of God’s presence than others. I’m better at hearing God in this place, for example, than at a baseball game. It’s vital that I seek out, intentionally, what the Celts called ‘thin places’ so that God can reveal what it is that I desperately need to hear.

Second, the growing burden in my life, on behalf of the church where I serve, is the burden of strengthening intercessory prayer. There’s this growing sense that the next major movement in our little flock needs to be centered in the realm of learning to pray for one another effectively, so that, by virtue of a robust ministry of prayer, lives are blessed, healed, and liberated to walk in the good that Christ has offered. I’m working on a prayer curriculum right now, and will be training both staff, our church council, and whoever else is interested or called to the work of prayer. The goal will be that, by the New Year, we will have a small army of people available to pray for people after services who are trained and growing into the this important ministry.

The sun is up now… the dogs are barking. The thin place is thickening. But much has been gained in these early hours.


At 31/7/07 15:27, Anonymous B.J. said...

Great post, Richard! I've always been able to find my thin places here in washington; I am beginning to long for some time in nature again.

At 1/8/07 00:49, Anonymous goethe said...

May the thin place is in your mind and not in a location.

By the way, Safeco Field is a thin place, laddy....

At 1/8/07 13:43, Blogger Dan said...

Thank you for this post - I agree wholeheartedly and appreciate your passion for prayer.


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