The Journey Through Brokenness – February 23

Liminal Space

In the 2008 release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the last in the movie series that was released 27 years following the first in the series), there is a continuation of a subtle theme of spirituality. This movie takes us into the realm of space aliens and the idea that it was aliens who contributed to the various wonders of the ancient world.

It happens when we come face-to-face with the crystal skeletons of a council of these beings, who come to life when the crystal skull taken from one of their members is finally returned. Professor Oxley (played by John Hurt) has been out of touch with reality from the time we first meet him in the movie, and he immediately returns to his senses in this scene. At this point Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) asks, “Are these from outer space.” Professor Oxley replies: “It seems, rather, that they are from the space between spaces.”

This idea of the “space between spaces” is also seminal to the theme found in Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time (of which I spoke in a recent sermon). It is in this space that Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which take the children on the search for their father.

In Hebrew and Christian spirituality, it is what is known as “liminal space” or the “thin space.” It is best described in the story of Elijah, as Elijah has escaped the sword of Jezebel after he had killed the prophets of Baal. He has his own wilderness experience, where he first wishes to die only to be told by an angel to wait on a mountain that he might see God.

In 1 Kings 19:11b-12, Elijah then is on the mountain and he experiences God in a way that is unexpected:

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

This “sheer silence” isn’t silence like we normally think about silence. This is the silence of space … where there are no molecules to transmit sound waves. This is that vacuous sound where it seems as if everything is being pulled away from us. This is the “thin space” or the “space between spaces.”

Liminality is something that mainline religious traditions don’t always talk about. The truth is that I have experienced liminality when I have felt most broken. When I am at that place of deepest grief … when I have been poured out completely … it is here that I experience something like “sheer silence.” This isn’t the place to think or do … this is the place only “to be.”

We are invited into this liminal space in this season of Lent. This is where we come face to face with our brokenness and powerlessness. This is where we come face-to-face with our most authentic selves.

Listen deeply in this silent, liminal space. And in the depth of our listening we may simply hear the voice of God.

God, speak to us in the silence. As we journey in this season of brokenness, bring us to the liminal space where we might hear your voice of love, hope, and life. Amen.

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