Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
Reflection by Janet Derby
One of the things I miss because of the pandemic is the ability to travel. That of course, shows how blessed I am. One of the benefits of travel is the opportunity to experience “thin places”. Thin places are defined as locations where the distance between heaven and earth narrows and we feel the presence of the divine. The term is Celtic in origin, at least according to the Irish, who believe there are many such places in the Emerald Isle. That is where we would have been In March had the pandemic not the global shutdown occurred. I admit that I agree that Ireland has more than its share of thin places, but they can be found in all kinds of locations, whether they are majestic cathedrals or ancient religious sites or a beach at sunrise or in the mountains.
Jacob finds one as he is on his way to Haran at his father’s direction. There he is reassured of God’s presence with him and that the promise of the covenant will be fulfilled. I am not sure he would have had this experience had he not stepped out in faith beyond his comfort zone. The same is true of us, I imagine. Though we are in a time when we can barely step out of our houses, we are yet outside of our comfort zones. Is it possible that we can still find thin places? I believe so. They might be in the altar spaces we set up where we attend virtual worship, or in our back yards or decks. We, like Jacob, are traveling in a new world, but we too can be assured of God’s presence with us.
God of Heaven and Earth,
Thank you for all the thin places we find in the world where we can feel your presence. Help us continue to look for those, wherever we are. Amen.