As I reflect with you and further “unpack” our recent pilgrimage to Ireland with members of Christ Church United Methodist, many of us experienced those moments that we might consider “thin spaces.” These are the times where the extraordinary in life enters the ordinary, and where the everyday events are transformed right before our eyes into a timeless event that never will be forgotten.
The picture above, believe it or not is a “thin space.” The big, burly man on his knees though not physically a thin space he is our bus driver, Brenden. He is a great man. And he is presenting to me—as a representative of our group—the cross of St. Brigid. Brenden is kneeling both out of reverence for St. Brigid and he is kneeling out of profound respect for our group. Trust me that is humbling enough and made me feel awkward as the one standing.
Prior to that moment, however, Brenden was the one standing tall, high above us, as he told the story of St. Brigid. While telling the story, he was wrapping reeds around his fingers that he had cut from a nearby wetland forming before our eyes the interesting shape of a cross. It is the symbol of the same cross St. Brigid made in the ancient 5th century of Ireland. For those who do not know the story of St. Brigid, she is a contemporary of St. Patrick and she is one of the three patron saints along with Patrick and St. Columba. She made the cross while sitting at the bedside of her dying father, a pagan chief. As she pulled on each reed, she told a story of Jesus to her father and then as she tightened the reed she blessed it in the name Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this way, she witnessed to her father who then upon his healing asked to be baptized into the Christian faith. The story is obviously one of conversion, and healing, but it also speaks to reconciliation between Brigid and her father.
Standing before Brenden, brought the ancient story of Brigid to life but as I held the cross, I was made aware of the power found in a symbol. Around me was a community of faith. Each person has a story to tell. Each person joined me in receiving the remarkable story of Brigid. We were all holding her cross. And as a result, we were all now surrounded by the company of Saints, the great cloud of witnesses, who were rejoicing with us as we stood with Brenden that remarkable day.
Of course, the story did not end with a cross but pointed to Brigid as the saint of “thresholds.” She is the one who is with us as we make our way from summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to spring. Brigid helps us from yesterday to today and today into tomorrow. Thresholds are those times in life that lead us through passages, stages, experiences where we are uncertain, vulnerable, weak, and yet find in her the grace, the strength and the courage to transition from one place of restraint to another of freedom.
So, now I am back in Kentucky. In my office, over the doorway, is the cross of Brigid. As I look at the cross, it tells a story that is now woven like the reeds into my story. And with it comes a blessing from Brenden, who guided us and led us over many miles through Ireland and more importantly bore witness to all the saints in a way that I will always cherish.