Preacher’s Post: Thin Places

between_heaven_and_earthI didn’t coin the term, but I’m wanting to make the concept of “thin place” part of our shared vocabulary and experience. “Thin places” are those places and/or moments when we sense God’s presence in an extraordinary way. There is something beyond the life we tend to live locked within the confines of our five senses, and we sense the eternal and transcendent. Rooted in Celtic spirituality, “thin places” have traditionally been the holy places people have identified where heaven and earth connect so that it is as if the curtain is pulled back and we see reality in new ways. Pilgrimages are often organized around physically going to what has been identified by others as a “thin place”; places like Glastonbury, England and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Thin places don’t always produce anything as grandiose as a spiritual breakthrough, but these moments do shake up our lives in unexpected ways. We often lose our bearings and are offered the opportunity to experience new ways of seeing and being.

Jacob’s experience at Bethel, when in his dream the heavens opened up and a stairway with angels connected with him, was so unexpected and astonishing. When he woke up he exclaimed, “God is in this place, and I didn’t know it!” (Genesis 28:16) Bethel became for the Israelites a holy site, but as with all holy sites the temptation is to act as if we’re visiting God – as if God lives there. That kind of thinking can permeate our church mentality as well. But in truth, Jacob’s experience was not limited to time and space…it is there for all of us whenever the connection with God snaps us out of our stupor and we are connected at the deepest level of our hearts (souls).

We are a simple church. We believe there are three priorities, all essential to shaping our lives. We become the people God created us to be doing the things God created us to do. I know from personal experience, connecting with God, Growing in community, and Serving the World, each offers its own unique “thin place” where we see and experience the full life Jesus promised and he, himself, lived.

Jacob’s experience is about his personal encounter with God, and for us, prayer (meditation), meditating on God’s Word (the Bible), and Worship are all part of being in the “thin place” where our souls connect with God. Jesus himself regularly withdrew from his disciples and his mission so he could nurture his relationship and connection with God the Father.
But the news about Jesus spread all the more widely, and crowds of people came to hear him and be healed from their diseases. But he would go away to lonely places, where he prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

We grow best in community. God shapes me though my brothers and sisters who love me, challenge me, and encourage me. There is a sharpening process that can only happen in authentic and vulnerable community. People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) We continue to strive to be real at St. Andrew because it is in the sharing of life that Jesus is present among us and the Spirit does the best work in us. It might be a worship service, a healing group meeting, or in conversation over lunch…wherever I gather with other believers, that is a “thin place.”

Finally, we serve the world. “God is in this place and I didn’t know it” that shows up again in Jesus’ parable of the last judgment in Matthew 25:34-40:

Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.  I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes,  naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’

The righteous will then answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?  When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!’

The “thin places” occur in, around, and through us as we live by faith and submit to the practices that truly change our souls. Thin places are not about elections. They are not about winning or losing. Thin places are when the Holy Spirit truly connects us to God, ourselves, and our neighbor. More often than not, in my experience, the thin places have something to do with the hurt and struggle of real life, then one reaching out to another in Jesus’ name, then finding ways to serve those around us. Those are the moments when I envision Jesus and the angels giving one another “high fives.” It is from the place of service on our knees that we see Jesus most clearly and accurately.

Here’s what I have on my desk…

DO YOU ENJOY BAKING COOKIES? WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO PROVIDE SNACKS FOR YOUNG LIFE MEETINGS?

Every Monday evening, Young Life hosts meetings for teens. Teens get hungry! If you are willing to provide a snack for a Monday evening, PLEASE MARK YOUR COMMUNICATION CARD ON SUNDAY, or contact Ruth Rogers at 707-343-7421 with questions!

THIS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH: NEW MEMBERS INFORMATIONAL CLASS —11:30 AM in Room 103. Join Pastor Rich for a light lunch provided by The Red Grape and a discussion on what it means to be a member of St. Andrew.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH: BLACK DOG LUNCH—11:30 am IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM. St. Andrew is hosting a lunch for those who suffer from any form of depression to join together for mutual support and encouragement. To view the Black Dog video created by the World Health Organization, go to the following website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc or Google “Black Dog Video”.

RSVP for your lunch and to request child care on your Communication Card this Sunday.

OUR SONOMA VALLEY FAITH COMMUNITY will be gathering at Congregation Shir Shalom, Burlingame Hall, 252 W. Spain Street, Thanksgiving morning at 10:00 AM for our joint worship service. This is a great way to make sure the real reason for the day is honored before we gather around our tables of plenty.

A ST. ANDREW CHRISTMAS TRADITION!! . . . . .SIGN UP ON SUNDAY TO RING BELLS FOR F.I.S.H. . . . . . .

Each year families and friends of St. Andrew ring the Christmas Bells at Lucky Market to benefit F.I.S.H. HAVE FUN AND SUPPORT THIS LOCAL MINISTRY by signing up for a 2-hour shift on weekends, beginning on Friday, December 2nd. We are looking for two or more people per shift. It is a great way for you, your children, spouse and friends to share the Christmas Spirit! Grab a partner and sign-up on the board!

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