Saturday, 27 February 2010

On top of the world

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

‘went up the mountain’

After the desert experience of last week, it seems that there were times in Jesus’ ministry when he needs to reconnect with his Divinity (even knowing that he is always Divine). Imagine he has never been ‘apart’ and here he is on the mission of all Time, alone; always on ‘show’; living ‘himself’ with only so much time to give.

His visit to the mountain shows that he knows he can’t do it by himself. He needs to be fed with his Father’s love and the Spirit’s grace just as much as we do; he needs to be reminded of the goal; what the sacrifice is meant to achieve not just for him but for all of us.

Our vocations and callings may not be about saving the Universe but they are there. And we cannot fulfil them by ourselves; we also need to be fed from the Source although we may not be so quick to realise it.

As confidently as we try to live our lives in community and in faith; it is not always easy. To be a witness of God’s message uses up energy, time, emotion; and that’s when it’s going well. All too often, our faith is a badge that sets us apart; it is a wearying thing; to feel that you are the only one.

In Lent we may take the decision, and have the opportunity, to take time out for a spiritual retreat. Sometimes it is enough to change our pattern of prayer or to commit ourselves more deeply; taking the journey inwards; finding the sacred space that is God’s Tent within us.

We talk a lot about Lent being like a desert – an empty place – but there are mountains in the desert – as starkly beautiful as any alpine snow covered peak; to climb a mountain in the desert takes courage.

Desert mountains are survivors of what was there before; uniquely fashioned by the Spirit’s creative breath; they reflect the light in startling colour as the sun hits the crystal fragments in the sand. The eddies of wind carry the same sand; scouring the skin and eyes; and the climb, even a few hundred feet, pushes the air temperature up, ripping air from your lungs.

The breathlessness and magnificence unite taking away the ability to speak; leaving you open to your emotions; open to the elements; a good place to empty yourself out; to recognise and admit to your own powerlessness. So that when God comes; in whispers of wind and clouds of unknowing you are ready.

‘it is wonderful for us to be here’

A mountain top faith experience is something we all seek; to know that you have had a personal encounter with the Divine. Yet, there is some truth is the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ because if you have ever been fortunate enough to have had such an experience of God, you will know it - it will be beyond words…..

In many ways it may seem beyond Time too; but we live in Time; so we don’t get to stay there; we will be sent back.

It is wonderful to live on the mountain; but we can’t ‘live’ on the mountain. Everything we do, have and care for is elsewhere. We are meant to take the experience with us, no matter how hard that may be. For some people who have had these experiences their spiritual lives are ruled by seeking the next mountain top without realising that these are simply moments that are meant to feed the life we live day to day. Our day to day life is not meant to be used purely for seeking these moments.

Peter speaks for all of us. In the struggles of daily life; who wouldn’t rather be on the mountain? But Peter wouldn’t have lasted long and neither would we. So appreciate the moment; the feeling; the grace when you are given it. Accept its wonder and its gift. And know that the journey continues.

‘told no one what they had seen’

How hard is that? To come back, even from a great holiday, a magical experience and not share it with friends and family? Unthinkable, really.

The thing about experiences of faith is that these are the moments when you are most closely in relationship with God. This is your personal experience; your gift; your grace. The last thing you need to do with it is give it away to those that will not understand.

It won’t mean the same to other people; they will not believe; they will question and query; causing you to question yourself; turning the real experience into a hot headed mirage. Why let that happen?

You were by yourself on the mountain – keep it to yourself.

And the paradox of this is that, actually, you can’t. If you have the experience it will transform you from within. You will change; you will see; you will feel. Others will experience that transformation; even though they can’t explain it. God’s presence will be felt; in heart and mind and action; as it should be.


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