Living with Jesus in Liminality: an invitation to be ‘dead with the dead God’

Just posted a link to my 10,000 word essay on liminality on the reddress writing page.  It was a long and difficult labour, but I am inordinately proud!

Liminal, adj  \’li-m’-nel\

1.  of or relating to a sensory threshold

2.  barely perceptible

3.  of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.

This piece of writing is theology born out of my own experience – heart, soul, mind and strength.  It is also where I think the Western Church is at – the old has died, but the new has not yet come.  It is the very definition of the ’emerging’ church – finding our way through a time massive time of transition and ecclesiastical upheaval.  So I’ve written about the spiritual experience of individual believers, the power of ritual for times of transition, and postmodern cultural liminality.  In all of that I suggest that Holy Saturday offers us a spirituality which gently guides us through a really difficult time.  Here’s the intro & conclusion:

There are moments, sometimes long extended, where life seems to drop into a kind of suspended state.  There is a memory of a past with form and intelligence but the simplicity of life has passed away and no shape or meaning has yet replaced it.  This moment of ‘liminality’ is an apophatic state of continuous present.  We have only the vaguest knowledge of ourselves, God and our world by what we used to know in the past and now do not know in the present.   On Holy Saturday there is similarly no human form or constructs, the Incarnated God has passed away.  And whilst faith prompts hope that there might be a further movement to the story, any future is not yet foreseeable.  There is nothing to do here but lie with Jesus in the tomb.  It is ‘betwixt and between’, a moment of liminality.  The Christian hope in this story is that there is nothing to do but wait.  Wait for the Lord’s resurrection.  Wait for God to act.  If one waits for the Lord’s rescue, the tomb can be transcended.  This essay explores the nature of liminality as a descriptor of life in transition in relation to individual psycho-spiritual states, Christian ritual and the present socio-cultural shift in Western society.  It then considers the spiritual lessons of Holy Saturday to ask: how is the Christian to live in such a moment?  What rules still apply?  What is the invitation?  I conclude that moments of liminality invite the Christian to ‘be dead with the dead God’ (Von Balthasar)…

This essay has presented an argument that liminality is a natural part of human experience which presents the follower of Jesus with an opportunity.  Surviving liminality requires faith and understanding – that this is not the end of the story, that there has been One who has been here before.  It is, in fact an opportunity to come into intimate contact with that One who is beyond our reach in the everyday of life.  Saying yes to this opportunity means embracing the moment –  standing still in the dark, or lying with Jesus in the grave.  It is a strange mix however, for at once there is a letting go of the old, a refusal to draw on human resources, the determined act of trusting that there is a future.  Critical thinking and searching for meaning, searching for God is a liminal intelligence that refuses to believe there is nothing but void.  That there is a power beyond the grave to come to our rescue, break through the meaninglessness with purpose and redeem the old ways so that they make sense again in a new light.

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