Sometimes something shivers us — a sunset, a single wildflower, a child playing in the park or in the street, a thousand scenes, a thousand times. That shiver is awe, wonder, a primal feeling, a sense of overwhelming meaning and mystery at the same time.   

Ted Loder in Loaves, Fishes and Leftovers

All through the year I’ve been sensing, tasting the flavour of each month and offering a taste to share.  This November skies are mysterious, bright or grey. The skies, the observance of All Saints that ushers in the month, and the day of Remembrance, intensify my sense of November as a thin place, a place where we are keenly aware that heaven and earth, past and future, light and darkness, death and life, touch.  Scripture is filled with stories of thin places.  It was hard to choose.  But here we are, with Jacob, his longings carried on a ladder, its feet resting on earth, its body propped up against heaven.  God’s Presence reaching earth through heaven.

Gathering Prayer

Gracious God,
You are always with us,
loving us,
delighting when we turn to You.
May we feel your Presence.
May our hearts be comforted and kindled
as we share this time together,
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Background

The site of this story, long before the story was written had been known by the ancients as a holy place.  There are two groups who combine to give it the shape it now has, the Yahwist (Y) and the Elohist (E).  Y is a great story-teller with favourite themes such as conflict between brothers.  E is determined, among other things, to recall the majesty and promises of God.  Y is probably responsible for the part in this story where God’s promises to Abraham are remembered.

As the story opens, Jacob is on the run. He’s manipulated his older twin brother, Esau, and deceived his father, Isaac to receive the birthright reserved for the first son.  Remember that red lentil stew Esau made? Esau is angry enough to kill Jacob and so Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, contrives to send him off to Haran to marry one of her brother’s daughters.  Haran is a 400 mile journey, and Jacob, as he heads toward it, will be reversing the steps of his grandfather Abram who left Haran for the land that God promised to show him.  Fifty miles out from home darkness falls and Jacob must stop for the night.  Finding a stone to rest his head on, he doesn’t realize that this is the place where his grandfather, Abraham had built an altar to the Lord.  It is another threshold or thin place, the threshold of the Promised Land and we remember that it was marked by Abraham as he arrived and Jacob as he leaves.

Jacob has never met this God his grandfather trusted.  He’s relied on himself to a fault, with just a little help from his mother.  So, afraid of what lurks in the dark and of what lies ahead, Jacob lies down to sleep and dreams this fantastic dream.  There are all kinds of symbols in this passage, journey, stones, a ladder, angels, the dream itself.  Perhaps there are others you will notice. The night air is alive with God’s Presence, shining with angels and marked with stones.

Scripture Genesis 28:1-22

Pondering Questions (remember there are no right answers; these are for conversation)

Have you experienced a thin place or threshold in your life?

How do you mark these times or places?

Is there a practice (music/nature/working with your hands) or place that brings you to a sense that God seems very near?

Might these days of pandemic be or become a thin place?

Praying for self & others:  Intercessory Prayer

After some conversations on these questions take a minute or two to write something that’s weighing on your heart, something you want held in prayer, on your piece of paper.

If there are only two of you, just exchange your papers.  If there are several, put your papers in the middle of the table where each person picks one randomly to take home.  Each day take a moment to just pause and bring the person or place or situation on this prayer to mind, offering them to God’s care, imagining them in God’s Love.  You don’t have to say anything.

Once the papers are exchanged you may want to pray The Lord’s Prayer together.

Benediction

May [we] draw deep from the wells of the holy
And have the protection and guidance of God
On every path.                                              Jan Richardson

Let us go in peace and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

A few other thin place stories in Scripture

Creation Story One:  Darkness and Light . . . . . Genesis 1:1-2:4
Moses on Holy Ground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Exodus 3: 1 -6
The Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism . . . . . . . . . . . . Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34
Transfiguration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Mt. 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36