Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am in the midst of writing a sermon for an interview this Sunday (remember Big Ivy College? They need a part time chaplain for one semester. Cool!), and I am doing so on the lectionary passage of the day from 1 Samuel, dealing with Hannah, her infertility, and the birth of Samuel. In the course of writing I was struck by the position of Eli the priest at the temple in Shiloh: he is described as "sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord." This particular detail has never struck me before, and I wandered over to it to have a look.

Doorways and tent openings in biblical literature are liminal places, defined for us in Wikipedia as "characterized by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy." Kind of like Hannah, in her "not a maid, not a mother, not a crone" positions. Egads! Kind of like me. A preacher with no place to preach. A person between.

About a hundred years ago I was trying to make the move from what dear MadPriest calls "the Italian church." I was attending an Episcopal church, and feeling drawn to it, but feeling unable to make the jump from the church that gave me birth, nurtured me, formed my faith, and put it in my heart to preach the gospel. I had tea with a dear friend one icy winter night, and I put all this to her. She looked at me with cool grey eyes and said, "It sounds as if you are not ready to do this. And you don't know when you will be. It sounds as if you may as well embrace this time of not knowing, of being in-between." It was as if a huge weight had been lifted for me. I didn't have to know. It was OK not to know.

So, I remember my grey-eyed friend's advice, and I repeat it to myself. I may as well embrace this liminal space and time. Let me be characterized by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy, and let me know that the holy happens in this place with remarkable regularity.

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