Good morning all! Here’s to the last day of March! And to Mondays! 🙂
Today’s scripture: Genesis 28:10-22
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
In Celtic Christianity there is a term that I find I am using these days. The term is “thin places” or “thin spaces.” These are the spaces where the boundaries between earth and heaven collapse and we are extremely aware of the divine or transcendent around us. The Celts said that heaven and earth were only three feet apart but in thin places that all collapses into virtually nothing. Once you are in a thin place, I find that it completely transforms you and you are never quite the same.
What are thin places? There is a fantastic article in the New York Times by Eric Weiner here if you want to read what he says…http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/travel/thin-places-where-we-are-jolted-out-of-old-ways-of-seeing-the-world.html?_r=0
And I agree with him. Some thin places are known as being sacred. There are some churches that when I walk into them the air feels as though God has been here all along. I feel at home. I feel as though there is no distance to chat with God. I feel as though I am exactly where I need to be. There are also some places in nature where this is true. Or perhaps it is in a coffeeshop chatting with someone dear.
Other thin places show up. All of a sudden the world is different around me. Time stops. And I am surrounded by heaven. This could be a conversation that God shows up in. Sitting at someone’s death bed. Present with a new baby in the world. There are spaces when all of a sudden time is different to me. The writer of the article says this, “At the gurdwara, time burst its banks. I was awash in time. That’s a common reaction to a thin place. It’s not that we lose all sense of time but, rather, that our relationship with time is altered, softened. In thin places, time is not something we feel compelled to parse or hoard. There’s plenty of it to go around.” And this kind of moment could be while walking down the street or in immense beauty. All of a sudden the colors are so vibrant and full of the divine, I can’t help but oooo and aaahhh..
Jacob has a dream where God breaks through the ordinary and the world becomes thin space around him. God actually breaks through in a dream where earth and heaven meet quite literally by a ladder. This space before was just a place to sleep but now it is infused with the divine. It transforms him. Doesn’t leave him the same. Jacob can’t help himself but mark the location in the middle of nowhere. He builds an altar in the middle of the world because God showed up.
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a book about this altar in the world. In her book, she reminds the reader that like Jacob we can see God in these spaces around us. Jacob, in his commemorating of thin space, reminds us to be aware of when God shows up around us. Maybe we have glided right by the moment? Usually God gets our attention in these spaces but perhaps we also need to be aware of when God shows up in the middle of the world. Taylor says that when Jacob wakes up it is one of those moments where he asks, “was that really real?” While the world around him still looked ordinary, he was not. In those places might might ask…is this real? This is why he marks the space. He has been transformed. How can that not be real?
There are these spaces all around us. In Lent, we are a little more hyper aware of our surroundings because hopefully we are looking for them. There are altars all around us in the middle of the wilderness if we can be aware of them. These spaces, where God meets with us, where heaven and earth meet, have the power to transform us. They are so beautiful that we may have to pinch ourselves to figure out if we are in a dream.
Today we pay a little more attention. Today we notice that the divine creeps in. Today we rest in the beauty of it and not try to convince ourselves that we are dreaming but acknowledge those transforming places. Today we breath in where earth and heaven meet.
“Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor
, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith