Originally a threshold was a door-sill that acted like a bar to hold in the thresh, that is, the trampled grain. It was a barrier on the floor preventing the thresh from being scattered outside. Over time a threshold came to lose its association with grain that had been trodden on, and instead came to mean a limit or a limiting value.

A threshing floor will normally have a threshold. On the other hand however, a threshold is now completely independent of a threshing floor. And I want to be clear that this is the sense in which I’m using it. The thresholds I’m talking about don’t have any relationship to threshing floors.

An impressive example of the dangers of thresholds occurs in the life cycle of a salmon. Now let me assure you, salmon might thrash, but they certainly don’t thresh.

A wild salmon spends its adult life in the ocean but, after several years, it feels a call to return to the breeding grounds in the lake where it was born. The time has come for the salmon to spawn. To do so, it has to cross a threshold from salt water to freshwater, to swim upstream and to leap high over foaming rapids. At these rocky obstacles, predators like bears and birds gather, ready to snatch the salmon as they fall back down the whitewater torrents or as they flash momentarily in the air.

This is perhaps the finest parallel in the natural world to a threshold in the spiritual realm. Just as salmon are called to leap over rocks to give birth to a new generation, so we are called to leap over a divine Rock to give birth to our destiny. Just as the salmon face predators like bears and birds, we face predatory spirits who would like nothing better than to make a meal of us.

The leap of the salmon has, as its spiritual counterpart, a very special Hebrew term: ‘pesach’. From ‘pesach’, we derive the English word paschal, referring to the Passover. The Passover is, according to Henry Clay Trumbull, a nineteenth century writer I’ll be referring to regularly, a seriously misunderstood concept. He explains it refers to leaping over a threshold stone and accepting an invitation of hospitality.

In nature, there are many other threshold concepts that have made their way into Hebrew thinking. Frost—that delicate film of ice that results from water vapour just above freezing point contacting a surface below freezing—is the same word as the covering on the Ark of the Covenant—the mercyseat forming the junction of heaven and earth.

Another significant threshold symbol is reeds—those plants that grow along the margins of land and water. The Hebrew word for reeds rhymes with one of the words for threshold, suggesting that the much-disputed Sea that the people of Israel passed through was not the Red Sea or the Reed Sea but the Threshold Sea.

This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May God’s wondrous grace leap in your heart today.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.