Homily preached by the Reverend Cindy Stravers
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Last Sunday after Epiphany – March 6, 2011
There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. Thin places bring clarity – they help us know who we are and they give our lives meaning and purpose.
Our scripture lessons today tell the story of two such experiences. Moses is called by God to meet him on the top of Mt Sinai to receive the law that was to govern God’s people into right living – God’s idea of how to have peaceful and fulfilling relationships with each other and with their God. Moses’ experience of God’s glory involved clouds and fire, God’s voice and God’s ideas. It also involved a lot of waiting. Moses experienced a thin place.
At least a thousand years later, Jesus and three of his closest friends climbed a mountain as well. Their experience of God’s glory also included a cloud, bright light and God’s voice along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah – two of the most important prophets of the Hebrew people.
In this story, commonly referred to as the Transfiguration, the presence of God, the glory of God was focused on Jesus. The voice of God declared him to be the Son of God – the Beloved – the one who pleased God – the one who should be listened to. This focus of God’s glory on Jesus somehow mysteriously changed him. His face took on the appearance of the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. Jesus didn’t just experience a thin place – Jesus himself became a thin place.
Glimpses of God’s glory come in a variety of ways. For me, the glory of God has been revealed profoundly in birth and in death – two thin places – one where earthly life begins – one where life on this earth ends and a whole new life with God begins.
Many people experience music as a vehicle for God’s glory, or the natural world – the changing of seasons – the deep snow of winter or gentle rains of spring – the ebb and flow of the tides – creatures that fly, swim or bark, fellow human beings who love us, who forgive us and who bring out the best in us.
As Christians, however, we believe that God’s glory is most clearly revealed in Jesus. The life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus are the singularly most thin of all places. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what Jesus said and what he did.
This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and we will begin the season of Lent. We will be marked with ashes and remember that we are mortal and we are not God. But that doesn’t mean we are nothing. It simply means we are not everything.
The season of Lent offers us an opportunity to climb the mountains to which we are called, to hear the voice of God in new ways and to focus on Jesus. If we accept this invitation, we are likely to experience thin places – catching glimpses of God’s glory.
What we lack as creatures will be given to us by the Creator; God will meet us in our humanity and will welcome us into his divinity.
As a parish, we have decided to adopt a tool, a simple discipline to help us not only see the mountain, but to start our climb to its summit.
“20+1+1” is an idea borrowed from the folks at Christ Church, Warwick, NY that provides a roadmap – a trip-planner leading to thin places – places where we will meet God and God will meet us.
Based on traditional Christian disciplines, it goes like this. We are invited to spend 20 minutes each day in prayer, one hour a week in worship and one hour a week in service. It is our hope that as we spend this time focusing our attention on God – on being present to God in prayer, in gathering for worship, and in following Jesus’ example of service to others, we will experience more thin places.
So this morning, I invite you to consider joining us in this Lenten discipline. I must warn you – there may be days when it feels like a very steep climb and the summit is hidden from view by clouds of impatience or the business of life. Like Moses, we may have to wait.
But the glory of God will be revealed as we make ourselves available. So let’s climb together to meet God and see how God will meet us – in prayer, in worship and in service.
As we move through this season of Lent – remembering the life, death and ultimate resurrection of Jesus, may we also have the profound experience of Jesus, God incarnate, as the most thin place of all. Amen.