Thin places

23 04 2012

I’ve been thinking about thin places – nothing to do with calorie counting or wishful-thinking-in-the-mirror. A “thin place” is a Celtic metaphor that describes a physical location in which God is especially present. A retreat centre or a quiet sanctuary would be obvious examples of potential thin places, or maybe somewhere in the “great outdoors”.  If you put yourself in Bible times, try Moses at the burning bush or Paul on the road to Damascus.

But it’s Abraham who has got me thinking.

In Genesis chapter 18 we read about God appearing to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre. Now that sounds like a thin place…maybe some sort of sacred grove.  But on closer reading it is Abraham’s home. He has settled there, but he’s also built an altar to worship God.  The ordinary and the sacred intertwine.

I kinda like the idea of being open to God at home.  It makes the encounter sound safe.  But a thin place isn’t simply a cozy hug from God.  Eric Weiner  writes in the New York Times that in a thin place “we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world.” 

A jolt is sudden, unxpected, and maybe painful. For Moses and Paul there is a defining moment that changes their lives.  And what of Abraham? We read that he entertains angelic beings in his home.  That was some dinner party!  And he then engages with God in new ways -with boldness in bargaining with God over the fate of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in obedience in taking Isaac to Mount Moriah, in trusting God to be God in his life.

In The lion the witch and the wardrobe,  one of the children asks if Aslan is safe –

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Think thin, but don’t think safe.

Thanks to Mark Roberts for insights about thin places.  You might want to follow up at –

Today as I walked through town I saw a sign which said, “Holy Ghost Zone” (I will try to get photographic evidence!)  What is that about?!

Here it is – not great quality picture but high amusement value.




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