I’m moving to a different house this week in order to start a new role soon and in those changes, there are the inevitable goodbyes. One of the people who it was important to do right, was with someone who I’ve travelled with, in their own journey of faith. We have shared lows and highs and a lot of roller-coaster situations in between.
When we met for coffee and reflected on the last 7 plus years, I was surprised by how much support I had given to one person. They were feeling a little lost in their faith in God. Wondering what to believe and what not to believe and the difficulties in all of that.
In the Gospel reading for today, a small and eclectic crowd found themselves on a mountain side, somewhere quiet, somewhere peaceful, somewhere that took a bit of effort to get to. Jesus with Peter, James and John went to pray, then this strange thing happened as they prayed. Jesus, not only shone like a washing machine whiteness, met with Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory.
Moses had asked God to show him his glory, and 1,500 years later his prayer was still being answered. So the transfiguration became a peek into eternity past at “the glory [Christ] had with [the Father] before the world existed” (John 17:5)
The gospel-writers after this tell us a story about a sick boy, so bad that the disciples were unable to cure him. They seem to be telling us that a mountain top experience and the shrieking and stubborn demon were at either ends of emotion and ability. Extreme highs and extreme lows do seem to hit us hard. Like my parishioner, one thing that happened years ago, still hurts, but on the other hand, they are grateful for a supportive family and friends from church.
Tom Wright suggests that many of us would prefer to have a calm and stable life over those extremes, rather an undramatic and unexciting. God seems to call many to that sort of life, and many others to dramatic visions, spiritual experiences which are balanced by huge demands. (Luke for everyone pg 114).
If we open up ourselves to God, we may see the different sizes of God at work in our lives. It is always hard to come down the mountain when it’s been an amazing experience and I’m sure that Peter, James and John were in more awe with Jesus once again.
The transfiguration shows us part of that power and the conversations that took place were not just about a predestined plan of Jesus’ departure from earth to a higher place but also about fulfilling the law and the prophets pointed out by Moses and Elijah. At the bottom of the mountain all sorts of stuff was going on, in the valley there is despair and death.
We too, travel into the valley of the shadow of death as we read in Psalm 23 and working with families during funeral planning, I often speak of that valley being something beautiful and interesting. A chance for us to seek out the goodness but seek we must do. In people’s kindness, in the messages in cards and phone calls as we come to terms with the reality of losing a loved one.
With the parishioner and the many discussions around change and loss and being unsure of what the future holds, is a reality we all have to face. The difference here perhaps is a chance to turn our faces to God, to Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. We know that when Jesus appeared to his disciples he left them the gift of the Holy Spirit, a comforter, a hug, unconditional love, meeting us wherever we find ourselves, in the good and in the bad.
One prayer I often pray with those I meet in ministry, is that the Holy Spirit will wrap around them, from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes, rather like a shimmering thread of Gold, holding, blessing, keeping us safe from harm.
May you feel that power today as you worship at home or in church. God has us, always and everywhere so we might shine to and lead more and more people towards Jesus, who indeed will shine a light for them too.