February 11, 2024: Thin Places

labyrinth with cross

Last Sunday after the Epiphany | Transfiguration Sunday

Thin Places

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Pastors are struggling to come up with sermons trying to explain what this unusual experience means. But what if the meaning is simply the experience itself? The experience of being in the presence of holiness?

Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus up to the top of a high mountain. That’s a good start—anyone who has been up to a mountaintop has experienced a moment of awe at the view. Even nonreligious people will talk about sensing the presence of God.

Celtic Christianity has a concept of “thin places”—places where the distance between heaven and earth seems smaller than it usually is, places where it is easy to see across the divide to the Divine. You may have your own particular “thin places.”

For lots of Moravians, those thin places will be connected with Laurel Ridge, or Camp Hope, or Camp Van-Es. Wherever your thin place is, in thinking of it you will immediately remember moments of awe, moments where you were acutely aware of God’s presence. It is a mystical experience, beyond description in language and explanation by science. The meaning is entirely in the experience itself.

These moments, these glimpses of glory, should remind us that whatever our idea of heaven is, it is inadequate; the reality will be far greater than we can imagine. We see in a bad mirror only a dim reflection—but even that murky image is enough to keep us going when we get back down to the valley. Because, just like Peter, James, and John, we also have to come down from the mountaintop and get back to work in the valley.

But we do so with the glimpse of holiness in our souls—just like Peter and James and John.

John Jackman, pastor, Trinity Moravian Church
Winston-Salem, North Carolina