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Place between worlds

by davesandel on May 18th, 2021

Tuesday, May 18, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

Place between worlds

Paul told his friends: You know how I lived among you, served the Lord in humility, suffered tears and trials and continued to teach you, how I bore witness to faith in Jesus … but now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know. But none of you will ever see my face again.

I have traveled back and forth from Urbana to Austin seven times since Thanksgiving, taking as many alternate routes and stopping in as many out-of-the-way destinations as possible on the way.

Reading about the 180 year history of Texan towns and rivers and people invite me even more into what feels like all the world.

Besides that, there are the thousands of places and people of my life, and I think of Richard Rohr’s confident statement that “journeys of great love and great suffering are the two normal and primary paths of transformation into God, preceding all organized religion.”

In one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await. But I wish only to finish the course and always bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.

And I know that far more than my fascination with historical tourism, it’s the people that I meet and especially those I get to know that cast me out on journeys of great love and great suffering. My family, my friends, those of us who have talked together of life and death and felt our way into even deeper places, we walk and wait for the various moments when God comes to us. In this way, over our lifetimes we become free to know God better than we know ourselves. Just as He knows us.

Before his monumental masterpiece history of Texas, Big Wonderful Thing, Stephen Harrigan wrote a historical novel, Gates of the Alamo. Deep inside the story, a thoughtful Mexican soldier is given an Indian woman to care for him. She speaks very little Spanish, but one day he asks her about her silences. “Where do you go?”

“Place between worlds,” she finally said.

And it surprised him that he thought he knew what she meant. It seemed to him that at various memorable times in his life he had fallen out of the common reality and entered something like this “place between worlds.” He had felt it as a boy after long hours of kneeling in church, he had felt it with the shock of his family’s brutal death, he had known it on the march through the Mexican deserts, when his fretful mind had strayed and stretched into boundless realms of despair, and there was nothing left but a numb, residual awareness. Sometimes in its very blankness this place between the worlds had been consoling. Was that where Isabella truly lived? Did it account for her mysterious, harmonic distance? (p. 422)

Jesus’ disciples must have wondered where he went in his own solitude. A place between worlds, perhaps? Did this account for his “mysterious, harmonic distance?” Reading the last few chapters of John and the words he shared with his disciples at the Passover Feast just before his arrest, I see that he greatly regretted having to leave them, even in the increasing intimacy he felt with Abba Father.

Father, the hour has come. Now I will no longer be in the world. Glorify me now Father, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. But I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

Always. Be with you. So I open my mouth and find words to talk with Jesus. And I learn to hear words for him to talk with me. These conversations are often practical and corrective, and they allow me plenty of room for repentance and change. And then sometimes, often after our talking is over, I find myself following Jesus into the place between worlds, and there he invites me to rest with him, in uncountable consolation.

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ.

(Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 14, John 17)

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