Saturday, 23 February 2013

Let it shine

2nd Sunday of Lent - GospelLuke 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.

The Lenten Gospel has travelled apace; one week - five chapters since the temptations of the desert heights and, in his pilgrimage towards Jerusalem, Jesus is now the one who is taking people to the mountain top.

Carl Jung tells us that we cannot live the afternoon of our life with the same rulebook as the morning. I guess that goes for scripture too. Even though we hear the account of the Transfiguration often twice a year and, even though, it is one of the best known and widely considered moments of Jesus' life it wouldn't feel right to  re-tell last year's reflection or the years before that. For the hours that have passed in my life, the mountain invites another ascent.

Mountains are always places set apart; in scripture, in tradition, often places nearer to God than to humanity. The very place where prophets are enlightened and visions are revealed. Even now that we know God does not live in the clouds, they are places of retreat and solitude spent in prayerful hope of presence and encounter. And not easy.

The lungs, tight and inflamed with the hot desert winds whipping around the rocks; the cramped muscles unused to the pumping climb; parched throats and cracked dry lips; the first thing the disciples may have prayed for was to be back on their boats with the seasprayed aircurrents of the Galilee and, a poor second,  with thanksgiving for a chance to rest and even doze.

Nevertheless, away from the crowds; away from the entreaties and accusations; away from his dusty and footweary everyday life, without all those many distractions, Jesus is free to be renewed, to become transfigured;   utterly transformed in such a way that the disciples must have doubted their own eyes.

We are told that the additional appearance of Moses and Elijah held great meaning for Peter, James and John with the sight of their greatest prophets holding court with their troublesome friend from Nazareth. And finally the voice of the God of their Fathers; a vision of miraculous affirmation.

Or not -  after all Moses and Elijah both balked at the task they had been set by God. Moses complained over and over that he was not the man for the job and Elijah hid under a broom brush begging God to to come and kill him. Perhaps their role was to assure Jesus that his need for this detour, for the connection with his Father, is so very human. 

At least Peter makes an attempt at hospitality; his culture expects no less and it often receives divine rewards. Little does he know that he, together with James and John, have just had their rewards - their vision of the Divine will strengthen them in the long days and years to come when fear will fill their hearts.

Jesus teaches us that he is not the focus of our lives; he is the gate; the path; the shepherd fetching us up on his shoulders; the old bull in the yoke leaning into us and spurring us on. His journey is our journey. His journey, as we often claim our journey, is a struggle and a challenge with fears and danger. But notice, that when he is weary, he does not sleep - he prays. He prays to his Father in heaven and his Father in heaven, as he promises us - hears his prayer. Jesus' courage and transformation comes about through his intimate, loving relationship with his Father; with our Father. 

There's a saying - pray as if your life depended on it - and it does. Not just for the major tragedies and fears that find us down on our knees but for every 'who, what, how, why and when' - the invitation to share and the demand to change. Even when the words don't come; when there are no words; when our prayers are tears or laughter or a helpless stillness. Pray, not for God's sake but for your own. 

Jesus' transformation is sacramental on the Divine scale; an outward sign of the inward grace that is his Father's love and pride. He is reminded, explicitly, of who he is - in love, with love. This grace is also given to us if we have the heart to see.

Such divine light that we see in those we love;  light we give out when we love;   light that mesmerises us in those who bring God's love to others; the light that stands on a mountain-top and blazes out for all to see. 

The darkened cloud reminds us of the challenge; why we need this spiritual strength. The wise elders have played their part; Jesus comes down the mountain to meet his death bringing Peter, James and John with him. He invites us also, and our discipleship will ask us to die every day - to ego; to vanity; to pride; to weariness and maybe, sometimes, to life itself. But if you are with him, there will always be light. 



Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Word....just what I needed to read today. Have to hold on to that light...

Word in the Hand said...

God Bless Andie, that's what he's there for mx+