Liturgy for the Liminal Space

Written for Highrock North Shore by Shaleen Camery-Hoggatt

Welcome to our Liturgy for Liminal Space. “The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin root, limen, which means ‘threshold.’ The liminal space is the ‘crossing over’ space – a space where you have left something behind, yet you are not yet fully in something else. It’s a transition space,” an intermediate or in-between phase. 

“Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher, wrote:  ‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.’ Yet if I’m honest, there have been times when I have felt far away from whatever that something incredible was that was waiting to be known. In those times, I’ve felt caught in a liminal space where nothing was certain, nothing was clear, and everything that I had thought was important to me seemed to be on hold.” - Alan Seale

The liminal space is a waiting space. Doesn’t that sound like our reality right now?  We’re waiting for the pandemic to be over, waiting for an effective Covid-19 vaccine.  We’re waiting for a long-term stable economy and dependable incomes.  We’re waiting for racial equality, peace and justice, for the November election and partisan divisiveness to be over, for schools to be in session and a “new normal.”  

The liminal space of 2020 has shaken up our lives, changed what we have known, but not yet given us answers to “What’s next?” and “When?”  2020 and all its surprises have brought up major questions about our core beliefs, practices, systems, relationships, and identities.

So, today, we’re inviting you to pause, “sit by the well,” deepen your awareness of the Beloved’s presence, grow in trust that even in liminal time, we are embraced by God’s Love, echo the words of the Psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd.  I have all that I need.” 

Below you’ll find the “Liturgy for Liminal Time”. We invite you to do this practice on your own, with your household, or with your chosen family. In an effort to truly be present with God, yourself, and one another, we invite you to set aside anything that might distract you - your phone, screens, dishes, clutter. 

Enter the Space:

Our hope is this will be a time set apart to meet with Jesus. One way we can lean deeply into these moments is by marking the beginning and the end of this time with a tangible act that sets it apart as sacred. We recommend striking a match and lighting a candle. Other options include dimming the lights, ringing a bell or chime, closing a door, or going outside.  

Doxology (Sing or listen to this traditional song of praise to God)

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow 
Praise Him, all creatures here below 
Praise Him, above ye heavenly host 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen

Reading and Responding to God’s Word:  Exodus 1:22 – 2:25 

Take time to engage with God’s Word by reading the selected passage, following these steps: 

  1. Read Exodus 1:22–2:25 aloud from your own Bible.  As you hear the words, notice the events in Moses’ story.  You might even make a list.
  2. Take a deep breath and then exhale 
  3. Read aloud this reflection on the passage:

The life-story of Moses has extraordinary, dramatic events—

  • When he was an infant, his mother placed him in a basket and set it afloat on the Nile to save his life, 
  • He was found and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, 
  • As an adult, he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, leading to Moses’ running away to Midian to avoid Pharaoh’s wrath.  

After all this drama, there is this seemingly unimportant phrase, but it must be significant because despite it being a simple, ordinary act, it is included: Moses sat down by a well (Exodus 2:15b). What does it mean to sit down by a well? A well is a source of refreshment, renewal, life-giving water. Sitting signifies pausing, resting, reflecting, contemplating, listening. For Moses, sitting by the well resulted in:

  • Seeing a need 
  • Acting to meet it - stepping in to defend the Midianite priest’s seven daughters who were experiencing injustice at the hands of other shepherds.

Sitting by a well is a metaphor for liminal time.  For Moses it is a pivotal pause, a threshold moment, a major transition--from the life he’d had in Pharaoh’s home in Egypt to life as a stranger in a foreign land, a Bedouin caring for flocks in Midian. 

And all of that was preparation for the many dramatic moments still to be experienced in Moses’ life, the “incredible somethings waiting to be known,” extraordinary things like: 

  • The Burning Bush, 
  • Meeting “I AM” and having a life-changing dialogue with God, 
  • A call to lead the Hebrew children out of Egypt, 
  • Parting the Red Sea, 
  • All the miracles experienced while wandering in the Wilderness for 40 years—daily manna, the guidance of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, bitter water made sweet, thirsty tongues quenched as water spurts from a rock
  • Receiving the Ten Commandments,
  • Spending time in God’s presence that was so powerful Moses needed to wear a veil to keep the reflected glory-glow from blinding the people.

In addition, in the Hebrew Scriptures, wells had the primary function of being a human-made resource for water necessary to survive and sustain life, but also the secondary functions of: 

  • Providing for emotional needs, 
  • Being a meeting place for community, cooperation, hospitality and connection, 
  • Serving as landmarks 
  • Being used as hiding places of safety
  • Serving as literary metaphors for living water and faithfulness in healthy relationships
  • Representing places of Divine revelation, as described in the story of Hagar:  Therefore, the well was called the Well of the Living One Who sees me. (Genesis 16:13-14).  It was at the well that one met God.  

That being the case, sitting at a well is intentionally stopping to experience God’s hospitality, presence, and gracious provision for all our needs--physical, spiritual, emotional, and social. In Genesis 21:19, God sees Hagar’s thirst and provides a well. Hagar names her son Ishmael—God hears, and names God--the living one who sees me. First God sees, then God hears, then God sends an angel to provide for all her needs. Throughout scripture we frequently see the pattern of God saying, "I have seen you, I have heard you, I have come..." Alternatively, idols are often referred to as blind, deaf, and unable to help. 

Breath Prayer 

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian prayer practice. It is a very short prayer of praise or petition, just four to eight syllables. The first phrase is generally an invocation of God’s name, spoken as you inhale. The second phrase, usually a need or request, is spoken as you exhale. 

The breath prayer is usually said quietly and repeated several times. Some people sing it; others chant it. We’ve provided a prayer for you to use, if that’s helpful. Take your time with the breath prayer. 

“Lover of my soul, speak to me in this liminal time.”

Reflection questions

Spend some time now or in the week ahead pondering these reflection questions.  You also may want to journal your answers or discuss them with others.

  • Where is God inviting me to pause for refreshing, renewing, life-giving water?
  • What am I being invited to reflect on, to contemplate, ponder?
  • As I pause, pay attention, listen…What do I hear? What do I see? What do I notice? What action am I being prompted to take?
  • How am I experiencing the “Living One Who sees me” today? 
  • In what ways is God seeing my needs and meeting them? 
  • As a result of this time “sitting by a well,” do you see God or yourself in new ways?

Exiting the Space 

Read aloud this benediction, written by Etty Hillesum, (1914 – 1943, author of diaries & letters, killed in Auschwitz concentration camp) 

"There is a really deep well inside me. 
And in it dwells God.
Sometimes I am there, too
… And that is all we can manage these days 
and also all that really matters: 
that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves."

At the end of the Liturgy, you’re invited to exit the space with another tangible act (i.e.: extinguishing the candle, turning on the lights, ringing the bell or chime a second time, opening the door, or going back inside). As a follow-up to the liturgy, at some point this week try to set aside a time to pause, rest, reflect, and “reset” in God’s Presence.  If possible, sit beside some water—a lake, the beach, a fountain. In an effort to truly be present, we invite you to set aside anything that might distract you and lean into this activity with wonder and intentionality. 

A wonderful way to deepen this experience is the practice of “Visio Divina,” praying with art.  By clicking below, you’ll find links to two paintings of Moses at the well.  Choose whichever one draws you and follow the directions for “divine seeing” as you pray with one or both pieces of art this week.  

Continue the practice of acknowledging the gifts of liminal time—time to rest, refresh, reflect, re-set.  Respond to the invitation to trust more deeply, receive God’s provision for all your needs, and listen for the “something incredible that is waiting to be known.”


REFLECTING AFTERWARD:

  • What was this time like for you?
  • Did you sense God’s presence?
  • Are you left with answers, more questions, or both?
  • If you find it helpful, keep a journal to record these sacred encounters. This will allow you to (1) see how God is present in your life over time and (2) share your experience with others.