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Thin Place – Br. Mark Brown

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Br. Mark BrownFeast of St. Hilda of Whitby

Matthew 19:27-29

Today we remember St. Hilda, the abbess of a community of men and women at Whitby in England. She was a grandniece of the king and so had life-long access to powerful people, who often sought her out for advice.  We also associate Hilda with the Synod of Whitby, when England pivoted away from the Celtic Christian tradition to a stronger alignment with the Roman.  She died on this day in 680.

As did Hilda, we live very much in the particulars of our time and place—as did the disciples. In Matthew today we read of their concern for how they’re going to get by, now that they’ve left everything behind.  Jesus has words of reassurance for them and promises of thrones.  But I wonder if they noticed something Jesus says almost in passing: “at the renewal of all things”. At the renewal of all things.

“All things” is lots and lots.  Lots and lots of things.  There’s a sweep and expansiveness to this that echoes the end of Mark, where Jesus says to “proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” [Mark 16:15]  The whole creation is lots and lots of creation.

What does it mean, “the renewal of all things”?  I don’t know.  What does “all things” mean? I don’t even know that.  What is “the whole creation”?  I can only begin to imagine.  There is an expansiveness here that leads us in the direction of that which is so much larger than ourselves and the particulars of our time and place.  What God is up to is so much more that we can imagine.

Yet, it’s good to look in that direction.  Though our vision be limited, it is good to look toward what God is up to in the “renewal of all things”. It brings a certain light and meaning to the very particulars, the very specifics of our lives.  Looking toward that which we cannot yet comprehend, we move into what Celtic Christianity calls the thin place.  Standing as we do in the mists, in this “Cloud of Unknowing”, we turn toward that which we cannot clearly see, and yet we somehow know to be there in all fullness and glory—and completely renewed.

In the thin place, though our comprehension be so limited, we and all the messy particulars, all the untidy specifics and trivialities of our lives begin to be new, they begin to be luminous, numinous, even sacramental.

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