Hinges of our History – Br. Sean Glenn

Br. Sean Glenn

John 1:35-42

When I was a student in graduate school, our chaplain, Cameron Partridge, introduced me to a concept that has never left me: liturgical hinges, or, those places in the church’s year that are marked by their liminality. Places that sit in a fertile tension between the thematic demarcations of two seasons. Days in the liturgical calendar that begin to ease our praying imaginations into the content of a new season, tantalize us with vexing ideas, incongruities, or questions, or provide us space to step back from our habitual readings of our relationship with God and others. Think of those two peculiar days between the last Sunday of Epiphany and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, or that liminal week after Christ the King as the church begins to hinge itself into the waiting of Advent. If you consult the seemingly arcane groupings of variable propers for the days after the First Sunday of Christmas, you will find that we are, even here and now, in the midst of such a hinge.

I love these oddities of the church calendar because of their signature “fuzziness,” as if we were removing one pair of spiritual glasses—the expanse of Ordinary Time after Trinity Sunday, let’s say—for another—in this case, Advent. We tend to know what to expect from the terrain of Ordinary Time or Advent (or Lent, or Easter). Their contours, while somehow always new, are familiar to us. They remind us that the whole journey of conversion is itself is life-long pivot from the familiar.

Yet like thick plumes of fragrant incense that obscure our vision and sting our eyes, these hinge periods remind us that so much of God’s work in us and God’s promises for us are outside our control and beyond our wildest imaginings. Reminders that the person God has created each of us to be—the person God knows, to whom God is closer than we ourselves, is a deep mystery to us.

This morning we find the disciple whom the church remembers as Peter at such a hinge time in his own journey. Andrew bring his brother Simon to Jesus following his own encounter him. He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).”[1]

Jesus looks at Simon and knows him in a way the world does not. Jesus looks at Simon and knows him in a way Simon does not. Jesus looks at Simon and gives him an unlikely new name. Kepha in Aramaic, Petra in Greek, Peter means “Rock.” Yet, is the Peter of whom we read in John and the synoptic gospels a character who displays any of the positive qualities we might associate with the stable, reliable, unmovable image of “Rock”?


In fact, most of the time the Peter we encounter in the pages of the gospels displays so few of these “stony virtues” that his climactic betrayal of Jesus can almost seem inescapably inevitable.

And yet Jesus looks at this ill-tempered, unreliable, cowardly man—who he knows will betray him—and sees neither what the world nor Simon can see: the man Jesus knows Peter will become because of God’s love, provision, and initiative in his life. The man Jesus knows Peter has been created to be. 

Jesus knows who Simon is when he me meets him, blemishes, failures past and yet to come, all of it.

And he looks at him.

And he says, You are…

Peter’s whole life hinges on his walk with Jesus, himself the hinge of history. 

Where has God taken you on a turn? Where has God promised the impossible to you and shown you, in the midst of obscured vision and stinging eyes, in a season of turning, that his design in you surpasses your wildest imaginings and overshadows your most notorious failures? Where has God shown you not only his solidarity with who you are today, but also his ceaseless seeking after the whole of who you are? Where have you sought the Lord only to realize after a gracious pivot that he was seeking you the whole time? 

Meditate on those Holy Hinges in your life—those spaces where God has begun to surprise you by showing you more and more those foretastes of who you will become. Not the person the world knows you to be or even that you know yourself to be; but the person he knows you to be. 

Let Jesus speak to the center of your soul as he looks at you and says, You are…

[1] John 1:42

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1 Comment

  1. Cameron Partridge on January 15, 2021 at 21:10

    Beautiful, Sean! I’m reading this a year later, and so appreciating your reading of Peter’s encounter with Jesus through the lens of hinges. Thank you!

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