Crossing the Threshold

I appreciate thresholds. They have a practical function because they define one space or room from another. They have a symbolic meaning: Crossing a threshold means that something is changing. In the most romantic sense, we're carried across a threshold, but regardless of how we cross it, the movement can signal transition from one state of existence to another. Thresholds are often marked by signs suggesting how to behave on the other side--what is or is not appropriate or expected. Without thresholds, behavior can become unstructured. This is not always a bad thing. Consider open classrooms or the open space in much modern architecture. Multi-purpose space has provided freedom in purpose and function. Activities can flow naturally, with less concern about making a transition. Shifts can occur with little or no intentionality. 

I see entering worship as an important threshold crossing. We move from everyday life and society into time set apart to attend to God. We enter as we are. We meet God in Christian fellowship. And then we leave--another threshold. 

I am grateful that most sanctuary entrances and exits have thresholds of some kind. They may not be physical (wooden or stone), but the threshold is implicit as we cross through the doors or arches from the social gathering space to the sanctuary. As we enter, we are invited to recognize that the worship time and space are set apart from everything else that we experience. 

The community of faith believes that corporate worship stimulates qualities that differ from what is promoted in the secular places. As we gather together before word and sacrament, we offer ourselves in praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. We receive God's response in an infinite and limitless way. Seeds are sown that may burst the heart immediately. At other, perhaps more frequent, times the impact of worship emerges days later--as long as we don't ignore or abort its transformation.  

So we enter. We cross over. What do we do then? How do we succeed or fail in the hospitality of opening our hearts and minds to the Lord?...

It may help to run a simple check on yourself as you settle into the pew or chair. It is not a time for judgment. It is not a time to critique how you are or try to will yourself into some other way of being. It is a time to simply observe and notice yourself.  

How are you physically? Notice the muscles, nerves, the face, and the brow. Notice your hands. Are they clenched? What about your jaw and the throat? Are they tight or relaxed? What about your breathing? Is it regular or erratic? Is it shallow or deep? Or are you holding your breath? As you look around, blink a few times to remind yourself that there is much to see.  

How are you emotionally? Is there a dominant emotion? What is the pace of the emotions? What about their intensity? Are they consistent or are you on an emotional roller coaster?  

Now look at the mind. What can you say about your mental activity? It is racing? Circular? Linear? Foggy? Clear? This is also a great time to honestly look at the nature of your thoughts. Are you drifting into criticism or judgment about someone or something you saw as you entered? Are you wondering about something you heard or have imagined regarding any of the other worshippers? 

How about your spiritual condition? In other words, what do you notice about what is going on where the conversation between you and God takes place? Perhaps you are noticing something about how you are as you move towards God. Some people see it as settling into a room or beginning to walk with God....

Once you have a clear awareness of how you are, it is time to step away from assumptions and expectations. It is an opportunity to be poised in wonder and ready to actively participate in giving ourselves--just as we are--to God and receiving whatever it is that God knows we most need.

- From "Crossing the Threshold," by Pamela Czarnota
Published in The RevWriter Resource (ISSN 1545-939X)
A publication of RevWriter Resources, LLC
September 2012
Volume 11, Number 8