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, November 11, 2008

Thin Places... Thin Times

In Celtic Christianity, the concept of "thin places" is described as those places in the our world where the dividing line between the visible and invisible realm is so thin that the two begin to bleed into each other for those with eyes to see, making the common become sacred, and the sacred become common. You can read a bit about thin places here if you're interested.

If there can be 'thin times' as well as 'thin places' then I would suggest that November is, of all months, the thinnest. It is, for me, that time of year when the sacred bleeds into the common, and when the invisible becomes so immediately present as to almost become visible. I'm not certain why it's this way for me; perhaps it's the convergence of darkness, rain, beautiful leaves, and the season of relative calm between the intensity of September/October, when everything begins in a ministry season, and December, when the usual suspects of Christmas/Advent activities conspire to crowd out contemplative moments.

But last night was a classic November thin night - It's a very ordinary night, rare in fact, because of it's ordinariness: there are no interruptions, no meetings, no heavy tasks on the domestic schedule. Instead, my wife and I watch a little bit of the news, marveling that we live in a country where, for all our political bickering, there is always a genuinely smooth transfer of power. We cook a meal together, eat by candlelight and become reacquainted after many days apart during the previous two weeks. Lingering at the table, we enjoy a glass of wine or cup of tea respectively. I tell her of a young woman in our congregation who's been diagnosed with leukemia, and start to cry, grieving this intrusion of suffering into her young life. Why this disease, for this girl, at this age? As we ponder and speak of others that we know and love, problems we might have thought we had evaporate, and we're aware of both the brevity of life and the profound privileges that are ours. This creates an unspoken desire to live our days fully, freely sharing and enjoying what we've been given. It's dark, quiet, holy.

After dishes and a strange postmodern movie, we sit together outside, talking and looking at the moon, veiled by clouds, but visible still. It's nearly silent in this big city. There's peace in the sky, peace in our marriage, peace in our hearts. Like the moon behind the veil, the light deeply present without overwhelming, I'm aware of just how thin the veil is. Later, in bed, I would fall asleep listening to quiet music, the last song being, "Be my Everything", a simple prayer asking God to fill every crevasse of life, so that the veil between sacred and secular, visible and invisible, common and holy, disappears entirely, making all moments holy.


At 12/11/08 08:28, Blogger Kristie Vosper said...

thank you for this post. I much agree about this season of the year. It's enchanting...the kingdom.

At 12/11/08 16:02, Blogger Katie said...

you put into words a feeling/sense I have had for years but never could put a name to it. thank you. I love the song. It reminds me of St. Patrick's prayer, which I love.

At 12/11/08 19:03, Blogger Donte said...

I feel much better about November after reading that. I am never all that excited about this month, because it offers little joy; rainy days, flooded rivers, bad traffic, and inescapable darkness. The warm days of summer are long gone, the excitement of the new academic year has waned, snow has yet to fall in the mountains, and the holidays are near but not here.
However, as you’ve suggested everything feels calmer this month. My pace of life and disposition slow to a state that is more demure now, than in any other month throughout the year. And for some reason God feels closer. Perhaps God speaks more to me at this time. Or, maybe I am just more willing to listen.


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