Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thin Places

In his book Surprised by Hope, N.T.Wright makes a brief mention of the Celtic tradition of ‘thin places.’ These are places where the curtain between heaven and earth seems almost transparent. There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart but in thin places that distance is even smaller. Wright sees thin places as being just one aspect of a much wider theology of place that has been under serious threat in the West since the Enlightenment.

Most often ‘thin places’ are associated with wild and rugged landscapes. They are places where one finds themselves unable but to marvel at the wonder of creation and thus the wonder of the Creator. For me I am in a thin place when I lie on the ground at night looking at the stars in the sky, walk along the beach after a storm, stand on the deck as the rain pours down, or when flying and I look down upon the clouds as the sun rises on the horizon. The space between heaven and earth feels thin. God feels so close. A friend today described the Sistine Chapel as a thin place.

In my experience I find that there are also ‘thin moments’ that happen in life. Moments where heaven and earth seem to overlap as the presence or wonder of God permeates the atmosphere. Communion for me is nearly always a thin place or a thin moment. A bride walking down the isle thin moment, it’s a moment that is so right because it is the outworking of God’s will established in Genesis. Over the years various youth camps and youth leaders retreats I have been on, have nearly always been an occasion for a ‘thin moment’ as the presence of God touches hearts and lives.

Thin places / moments are not always where or when we expect them though. U2’s Hallelujah song has undoubtedly led to thin moments in the middle of a rock concert. Andre Rieu performing Amazing Grace in Melbourne in 2008 was to me a thin place, as was most recently, Susan Boyle singing on Britain’s Got Talent. Even Simon Cowell was wowed. The bible says that blessed are the gentle and the lowly, blessed are the meek, that the last shall be first, and that we are not to judge based on outward experiences. This performance was a thin moment to me.

What are thin places in your life? Have you ever experienced a thin moment?

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