In the middle of last week, I set out on a run through the countryside. I hit a good turn-around point and did so, turning back on a gravel road cutting between corn fields and cow pastures. As I crested a small hill and started down the other side, a small flock of pigeons about a hundred yards in front of me took off into the air. They began heading west, but they quickly circled back and headed instead to the eastern sky. And in the midst of that flock was one, lone white pigeon – a dove as far as I knew, although my ornithological knowledge is meager.
Nonetheless, that’s how I saw it: a dove, not too unlike that dove that descended upon Jesus in the Jordan River, flapping its wings and mixing a sense of holiness into this otherwise natural Indiana countryside.
The Celtic people have a term they use to describe such experiences, one I’ve mentioned before. “Thin places,” they call them – places where the divine seems to wonderfully, miraculously mingle with this material world. And we all have them. Sometimes it is an actual location to which we have been – a lookout, a sandy beach somewhere. Sometimes, though, they’re just moments – a happenstance in the middle of our day that comes alive with God’s touch and presence.
Of course, there are the “thin places” here at church – signs and symbols handed to us by Jesus Christ so we might remember a holy love and mercy interacting with our common lives. There is that cross, those wooden beams that hang in our church sanctuary – a silent reminder that even in the harshest, ugliest moments of this material life, there God still resides.
There is the table in our sanctuary that will hold a loaf of bread and a cup of juice for us this Sunday. And when we celebrate that meal, God’s presence will come into our presence – intersecting with our busy, crowded lives.
But, as Rev. Dean Snyder says so well, “you will find thin places outside the church doors as often as inside, maybe more often.” And, I think that is part of the beauty of these days of early spring. There are “thin places” in abundance: in the daffodils that break forth from a tomb of darkness and lead us towards Easter, in the white shoes and pink ribbons and pale blues of the children dressed up for an Easter service, in the laughter and suspense of children running across greening lawns – looking for bright, multi-colored eggs.
And, for you, those thin places may just be some moment you spend with your family over an Easter dinner, or a conversation you have over a phone, or a sunset that you weren’t prepared to see but glad you did.
However it comes, my prayer is that Gerard Manley Hopkins verses might speak true to you:
“For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the feature of men’s faces.”
And I invite you to come join us throughout the next four days for there are several opportunities for us to pause and to recall holy feasts and the thin places of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.
You’re welcome to join us tonight as we remember, recall and retell the story of God’s saving ways. We’ll gather at 6:00 pm in the fellowship hall to participate in the Christian Seder meal.
You’re welcome to gather in the sanctuary on Good Friday at 7:00 pm as we pause to hear again the seven last words Jesus spoke from the cross, allowing ourselves to wonder, “Were you there?”
You’re welcome to join us at 2:00 pm on Saturday as we set out eggs and release the children to scour and scurry.
You’re welcome to rise early on the third day, to join us at 7:30 am so we can gather again as a community of believers to sing, to hear again the story of that glad day when the tomb was empty, to testify to where we’ve seen Jesus alive, and to sing again our praise to our Risen Lord.
You’re welcome to sit down at tables with your brothers and sisters and enjoy a breakfast together Easter morning at 8:30 am in our fellowship hall.
You’re welcome to gather as families and as friends at 10:00 am as we turn our attention towards God and glorify Christ alive through song, through Word, and through the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
But, wherever you are, I hope you too will see Christ Jesus alive and at play in our midst,
 In The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. W. H. Gardner and N. H. Mackenzie (London: Oxford University Press, 1967). Pg. 90.