Going out and coming in matter a lot. Some cultures have traditions around keeping the threshold swept and clean, as a sign of hospitality or an element of good fortune. Entryways can be inviting or intimidating. They are the portals between one world and another, and as we come and go we resort our sense of place, self, community, and possibilities.
People who study these things tell us that churches have a “high threshold” to most folks these days. That is, most folks find them very intimidating, and it takes a lot of courage and determination to work up enough nerve to enter one. There are some good reasons for this, given the way the church has acted in a lot of quarters, and given what the loudest voices in Christendom shout from our TV screens.
We’re working on our threshold at the church I serve. The photo here shows Steve physically patching things up, so that people are literally safer coming and going.
We are also trying to get better at telling people who we are and what it will be like if they come inside, so they can make a good choice about whether to climb the stairs. And we’re trying to remember what it’s like to be newcomers ourselves, so we can meet people where they are, as the saying goes.
Holy Week, which we’re marking right now, helps us do all this. It is a threshold experience. In Holy Week, we remember the story of Jesus’ last night with his friends, his suffering and death, and what we proclaim as his Resurrection. As we gather night after night, we stand in a liminal place, between “reality” and “metaphor,” between past and present, between communal and individual experience, between doubt and faith, between reason and wisdom. We come and go, from home to church, church and home, crossing the threshold over and over, sifting our lives with scripture, song, symbol, and meal.
If we are attentive, we will live T.S. Eliot’s great words: We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.