Come Sunday: “Let’s Get Liminal” (October 13, 2013)


21st Sunday of Pentecost

October 13, 2013

Luke 17:11-19

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

-Luke 17:14-16

lim·i·nal /ˈlimənl/- 1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.


liminalBorders are interesting things.  I grew up in Michigan only an hour in two directions to the US/Canadian border.  When driving accross a border, you stop at a booth where someone from Customs asks why you are coming to their fair nation and what are your intentions.  After looking at our passports, the officer waves us through to a new nation.

Borders, especially land crossings, are interesting because one moment you are here and the next there.  You could walk from here to there quite easily if it weren’t for those customs officers that stand in your way.  Borders are like going through the looking glass into another reality, something that is familiar and yet very different.

In preparing for this sermon, a word kept showing  up in the online commentaries I was reading: liminal.  I’ve heard it being used more and more in religious contexts to describe the times we live in; the in between time, on the edge of something better. I kept wondering what liminal had to do with this passage.  As I think about it, the passage has everything to do with being liminal.  Actually, Jesus is all about the liminal.  Jesus seemed to stand in the middle of things, in the borderlands.  Jesus seems to be all about crossing boundaries.  Here’s Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  There’s him healing a woman considered unclean.  In this passage he heals ten lepers.  He decides to cross the boundary that separated him from these lepers.  Because he crossed a boundary, one of the ex-lepers comes back to thank Jesus for healing him and that man happened to be a Samaritan.

As I am writing this, we are finishing up day 10 of the federal government shutdown.  I know people have their views on who is to blame, but what is striking me is how polarized we have become as a society.  Republicans over here, Democrats over there.  We humans are good at creating barriers, walls and fences at our borders to keep the other out.

And yet, Jesus walks in and cross the border with ease.

The Samaritan ex-leper was thankful for being healed.  Maybe we should be thankful for a God that is liminal, that breaks boundaries and heals us.

But there is another understanding of being liminal.  That meaning is basically being at the threshold of something.  Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he would suffer and die.  Each stop along the way was part of a process, bringing him closer and closer to a moment where everything would change.

When I thought of this second meaning, a song immediately popped in my head.  It’s a song from the 80s, but it feels at times like it came out yesterday.  It’s the song “Verge of a Miracle” by the late Rich Mullins.  Mullins was a contemporary Christian artist that was popular in the 80s and 90s and this song was one of his early hits.  The chorus goes:

You’re on the verge of a miracle
Standing there – oh –
You’re on the verge of a miracle
Just waiting to be believed in
Open your eyes and see
You’re on the verge of a miracle

I think that our lives as Christians are ones that are perched at the threshold of something, something we don’t always know.  What if we saw our daily walk as one where we are on the verge of a miracle?  What if we saw these miracles as times where we cross borders and become agents of healing?

Go and be church.


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