There are such things as thin places, especially in the ethos of those of us who have been fed by some of the traditions and prayers of Celtic Christianity as it has come to us through some parts of the Anglican tradition. Those ancient thin places tended to be associated with rocks, or groves of trees, or certain springs that had some connection with the pagan gods of former times. So a rational and perhaps cynical mind might wonder if they are more the stuff of fairy tales and maybe even a bit heretical for a believing Christian. I wouldn’t know about that, I only know about my own thin places, and they have nothing to do with Ireland, Scotland or Wales. They do have to do with places filled with the memories and holy places of pagan gods.
Right now we are on our annual vacation in Hawaii. We’ve been coming to one or more of the islands once, or even twice, a year for twenty-five years. But my own first time was in 1968 on, of all things, a business trip. Like most first time visitors, I was mesmerized by the aroma of the breezes and beauty of the land and sea, but there was something more. It was the inexplicable feeling that my heart and soul had come to their place of physical, emotional and spiritual refreshment and renewal. In all the years that have passed, that sense has never waned but only grown stronger. There is something compelling in the history, culture, myths, land and sea that meld synergistically into moment after moment of thin places for me.
That’s not to say that we have not experienced more than a few really bad worship services in places where God was proclaimed but the Spirit was most definitely absent, or that we have not been caught up in all the touristy things that other tourists get caught up in. After all, in the end we are only tourists. Moreover, one ought not to romanticize Hawaii too much. There is a deep sadness and much tragedy in the history of these islands, not the least of which was the coup d’etat of 1898 when the rightful monarch was overthrown by business interests who then engineered a transfer of the kingdom to the U.S.
All of that is beside the point. There is just a lot of “mana” around, some good and some bad, but the power and presence of God’s benevolent love overwhelms them all. Gentle breezes, fierce winds, glass smooth seas and raging storms, blustering volcanoes, barren desserts, soggy rain forests, beaches, mountains, warm and cold all live in tension filled harmony. They all combine to embrace me with a sense of the totality of God’s creation.
Some have asked why we don’t move here. I don’t think that would work. I don’t think you can live in your place of refreshment. It needs to be a place you visit. At least that’s the way I see it.