Pilgrim Church UCC Summer Worship Homily Outline, August 16, 2015, Thin Place: My Call” (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

Thin Places and Thin Place Moments
-Term has Celtic Christian origins, belief that heaven and earth are only 3 feet apart. Thin Places: special places where distance is even less and people can sense God’s presence more readily.
-Sanctuaries are meant to be Thin Places: stained glass Bible scenes, high ceilings, clear windows to look on God’s creation, (smells and bells: incense, candles, music, Communion, Baptisms), rituals matter!
-Samuel as a boy is called as he’s sleeping in the Temple, believes that Eli’s calling him until Eli realizes that it’s God and Samuel must be still and listen, “Speak, I’m your servant, ready to listen.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
-Samuel must open himself to the presence of God to understand what’s being asked.

My Call: Most Significant Thin Place
-From my Ordination Paper: “My call to the ministry occurred on December 24, 1996 when I was 12 years old. During the late Christmas Eve service, I was asked to read a Bible passage. I was so nervous that I memorized the verses (Isaiah 9:2-7) so I would feel more comfortable. I was the first reader and walked up to the pulpit with shaky hands. But as I began to speak, the words flowed freely and powerfully.  The words were coming from within me but were somehow beyond me. In retrospect, I was a vessel for the Divine. After finishing my passage, I lit one of the altar candles and sat down, feeling overwhelming spiritual warmth. It was like I was basking in the light of Christ and God had turned God’s complete attention onto me.  God saw me, God knew me, God loved me, and God needed me.  Wrapped in this embrace of love and deep peace, I knew that this was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life—God was calling me to the ministry.”

Owning My Story
-Shared my call with my family that night in the parking lot of Trinity UCC in Wadsworth, Ohio, but it was overwhelming!  Thankfully my call was nurtured: Consistory, 4 mission trips, Confirmation, Delegate for EOA, preaching when I was 18, serving on a Search Committee while in college.  Lots of Elis in my life!
-Came to ANTS as the only person straight from college, felt self-conscious about my call story.
-Most peoples’ calls resembled Jonah, and not Samuel so much!
-Average age was 41, most students had a first career.  For many, their call was a process of discernment, an inclination over years (sometimes ignored or run from.)  For me, it was a religious experience as a child.
-Brene Brown speaks about owning our stories.
-e. e. cummings: “it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
-Seminary helped me own my story: God called me young, my call was in the form of a religious experience, and that I knew from childhood that God is the Ground of my Being.
-At times I’ve doubted God’s goodness and questioned God’s power, but never God’s existence.
-Came to see being called young, my Thin Place moment, and being so Grounded in God as a gift.
-There’s a link in my mind: Grounded in God = Grounded in Self.

The Journey from our Heads to our Hearts
-How do we come to know/understand God anyway?
-Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.
-Thin Places ground us in ways the others can’t.  John Wesley, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”
-“The longest journey a person takes is the distance between your head and your heart.”
-Christianity is about relationship: the one we have with God, with one another, and with ourselves.  Jesus said, “Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Thin Places help us love God fully and completely, help us make the journey from our head to our hearts.