Original Posting At http://mantuan.blogspot.com/2020/01/now-as-threshold-moment.html
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11: 1 (New International Version)
Several years ago I was attempting, and failing, to make a sermon illustration using physics.
I asked if anyone knew the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I wasn’t really expecting an answer but voices in the congregation shouted “Bonhoeffer!” We laughed and it is still funny.
When Bonhoeffer is the answer to the vast majority of my questions when preaching, shouting out his name is the “just right” answer, right?
We see the same kind of “just right” answer from the children to questions during Children’s Time: “Jesus!”
In Utah, at Hilltop United Methodist, I was in a choir where when the director would ask a question about a vowel sound, we would all shout out “schwa”! That sound is the most common English language vowel sound in our spoken language, and most of us don’t even know what it is! It is the ‘uh’ in how we say Philip in English. A gazillion examples of this sound exist: Again, family, bottom, support, and syringe all have an “uh” sound and that sound is the schwa. Schwa is “just right.”
Those three answers are often the expected response to those particular questions and often, they are “just right.”
Sometimes however, the proper response to a moment in our lives is unexpected, it might not always seem quite right as it is happening to us. In fact, that response may actually seem dangerous.
Let’s return to the question that got the answer “Bonhoeffer!” Let me offer you one way to understand that law of Thermodynamics is left on their own systems move from order to disorder. You might hear it phrased things move from order to chaos. But when the moment is a threshold moment, when the ingredients and the moment combine just right, something miraculous happens – instead of chaos, the system moves to a new complexity that has a new order. In other words, it moves from simplicity to an ordered complexity. It may look like chaos for a while, but it doesn’t stay that way.
I offer the decision from antiquity to not eat gathered grain, and instead, put it into the ground. One scholar calls it a Goldilocks moment: when the right ingredients encounter a moment when everything is just right. It’s miraculous, and it is a threshold moment.
On an Easter Sunday a few years ago, I used the idea of Peter pondering the empty tomb and the women’s encounter with the Risen Jesus. It was a threshold moment.
In physics, a threshold moment doesn’t require our assent, but in our theological, spiritual, and religious world, it does.
We must assent to the possibility that something miraculous has happened: the moment is just right for a new reality, a new creation: it is both faith and trust. It is also scary because it is so dangerous.
Alix Harrow writes: “Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between.”
We can’t fear the in-between. We must be prepared to step off that edge in faith, in trust. I wonder if now isn’t for many of us a threshold moment, and needing faith and trust to step out into a new unknown.
Scary. Dangerous. Necessary.