February 22, 2004 Last Sunday after Epiphany
Scriptures: Exodus 34: 29-35, 2 Corinthians 3: 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, Luke 9: 28-36
Today I want to talk to you about thin places. I am not talking about the gym or the exercise clubs people are flocking to these days, maybe even your parents.
I want to focus on the thin places where the 'dazzling light of God's presence' breaks through, and we glow inside and out.
You see, there are at least two layers or dimensions in life. The first is the visible world of our ordinary experience. The second is the sacred, the divine dimension or layer, the spiritual plane as we used to say.
The first dimension or layer, the one we know so well and see everyday, is actually in the second dimension. Life, as we know it, is lived inside the spiritual dimension. As the apostle Paul wrote, "God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being."
God the Spirit is an invisible non-material layer all around us. Thin places are where the light of God's presence shines through and opens our heart. Thin places are where the glory of God we hear about in the Bible shines forth. Now the Bible tells us that in the beginning, in the first moment of Creation, the dazzling light of God's presence shone forth. In this glorious shining presence creation began.
So, behind all things, within all creatures, God's light shines. Some places, some experiences, some people even, become thin places where the dazzling light of God's presence shines through to us. When it does, our hearts, our deepest self are opened and we shine too! In that moment we don't know if we are in heaven or on earth.
This is what is going on in our Gospel lesson today. Jesus goes up a mountain and high places are often thin places. Jesus goes up a mountain with three apostles, Peter, James and John. They fall asleep while Jesus prays and suddenly the dazzling light of God's presence breaks through and Jesus is filled with light.
Jesus shines, he glows in God's grace.
Jesus becomes a thin place himself and is joined by Moses and Elijah, wonder works of Israel past. All are aglow in divine glory. The disciples awake to see this bright spectacle. They don't know if they are in heaven or on earth. Peter wants to make a shrine to mark it. And then it is gone. You see, worship, church services like this one today can become thin places where the glory of God shines through to us, glows within us. Our hearts are opened wide. When this, happens for a moment, we don't know if we are in heaven or on earth.
One of the really powerful aspects about the Scouting/Guiding Movement is how it seeks out the thin places and reminds us that God is all around us.
When I was a cub 40 years ago, and later a scout, our pack/troop had a wonderful wilderness-like camp called Camp Wyldman. Every aspect of it is etched in my memory: The sand hill, the open area, the stream running along between the bush and the open area, the trails, the campsites, the rope bridge across the creek and the long walk to the beach. The 'whip-poor-wills' sang all night; things went squeak in the night. I am sure you have gone to a Scout or Guide camp like the one I remember.
These camps are thin places where we can see and feel the Spirit.
The community gathered; the leaders, the meals, the challenges, the games, the fresh air can cause the light of God's presence to break through for a moment and open our hearts. For a moment we don't know if we are in heaven or on earth.
We return to our normal life with an inner glow in our hearts and a glowing smile on our faces.
My back yard is a thin place. We bought our house for the trees and open space of the backyard. As soon as Vickie and I saw the backyard, I knew we had to live there. The house wasn't much. I had to build an addition onto it to make it workable. We got married in that backyard. The cool spring weather warmed up just in time, the cloudy month of May finally cleared on the last day of the month. Fifteen minutes before the wedding the sun finally shone through all those clouds and lit up the back yard in angled late afternoon shafts of light. We gathered into a circle under the trees, everything was green and glowed in golden sunlight. My heart opened, I glowed in the glory of God's love and offered my vows of love and loyalty. I kept on glowing even after the sun set. It was a wonderful event.
I didn't know if I was in heaven or on earth.
That's the thing about thin places.
The Scouting/Guiding Movement helps children and youth connect, offers moments when we don't know if we are in heaven on earth.