Thin Church Places

Originally Published 1-25-2008

Someone has gone and done it again.

Some Sundays, I think church members should carry paint balls to church so we can blast people who say stupid stuff right there on the spot. Sometimes people say the stupidest things – at the most inappropriate times. Strange that it seems to always happen during Sunday morning church services. You would think if one were going to say something totally asinine one would make it a point to say it somewhere, and sometime else. Maybe we should just “mark” the guy who gets up and says something totally inappropriate and stupid, like with a paint ball shot to the lapel pin or something. All you people with florescent paint marks, come on down to the alter call. Maybe that would solve the problem.

Several years ago we were attending a church near Duke University. It was during the time when the “bog people” were the rage in the natural science magazines. These poor pre-viking maybe pre-celtic guys and a few gals were being found in peat bogs in north central Europe. Lots of speculation over how they got there. Maybe they were criminals. Maybe they were killed because they were sick. The possibilities are endless. Some Roman historian had a couple ideas, perhaps from someone with personal experience with these chaps. Eventually it was determined this must have been a religious ritual of a sort. Maybe it was. Maybe not. Who knows. Maybe their friends just offed them. One perfectly good spring Sunday morining, this guy gets up during a communion meditation and goes off into how communion in the Christian church is just like bog worshiping. Like they were just trying to get close to Deity. Just like we are trying to get close to God at this communion service today. He goes into all the theory of “thin places” and how ancient Germanic tribes thought bogs were “soft spots” or “thin places” in reality, where one might easily pass from this space to another. One of the great revelations during all of this was that doors were special. I guess today we would call them portals. Well this goes on for 15 minutes. My wife gets to thinking this is a desecration, because it involves the sacrifice of human beings to some pagan deity, at what is supposed to be a feast and coming together of believers in the presence of God, so she up and walks out. Our children, who had read all about this stuff in various magazines understood what thin places were about, and that thin places communion lectures were not particularly appropriate. My wife is not a “letter” writer, but she wrote a letter to that congregations’ elders. At least some of them said they agreed with her. It seemed like months before that fiasco quited down.

So, recently we are in another church elsewhere in the southeast. Another guy gets up to do the “shepherds’ prayer” and starts into Celtic friends and “thin places”. Well you guessed it. Here we go again. Gratefully, he only said thin places a few times in maybe a handful of minutes. But the damage is done. What is with these people! Can’t they ever leave well enough alone! If there is no trouble in a congregation one of us has to get up and say something to stir it up. Have they not figured out we never find God by looking for him? We find him, because he came looking for us. We find him at the coming together at communion. Christ taught that where two or more gather in his name, he is there in the midst. He is there at communion. Do we need to spoil that by bringing up horrible rituals which originate from the darkest and most desperate times in human history? Is it really necessary? Must we turn the coming together into a driving apart? Hey Man! Doors have been special since the first one was made! Doors are a way of letting me in and keeping you out! Or, vice versa! Doors are a way of dividing our spaces. Doors are sometimes best left closed. Well enough is often best left alone. In the parlance of a software guy – make a backup copy before you fix it. Perhaps the dark secrets of antiquity are best left there.

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