Saturday, February 6, 2016

Flashes of Glory: Christ's Transfiguration and Ours (The Last Sunday after Epiphany, 7 February 2016)

Flashes of Glory:  Christ’s Transfiguration and Ours

Last Sunday after Epiphany
7 February 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

            Ever since I was a boy, I have been loved television programmes that explore the mysteries of creation.  ‘Nova’ or ‘Nature’ or ‘National Geographic Specials’ can hook me within minutes.  From the comfort of my living room I have travelled the vast expanses of the cosmos and the depths of the oceans.

            This past week I was drawn to a programme on the creatures of the deep zones of the oceans.  Most of these creatures are bio-luminescent meaning that they generate their own chemical light.  Some use it for defense, some for hunting and some for procreation.  Just watching the flashing lights and variety of colours was intriguing.

            What I found more interesting were the creatures that do not generate any light.  Many seem drab and uninteresting in greys and blues.  But these creatures have a secret.  They absorb the blue light that penetrates 50 to 75 metres and turn into light that is not visible to the human eye.  These creatures are bio-fluorescent.  When they are viewed through a yellow filter, they radiate brilliance.  Greys and blues are replaced by vibrant greens and blues and reds.  Flashes of glory fill the ocean --- if you know how to look.

            When Peter, James and John accompany Jesus to the summit of the mountain, they were unprepared for what would happen.  I imagine that they might have arrived slightly out of breath.  From time to time one of the younger men might have asked Jesus, ‘Are we near the top yet?’  We know that they were tired, because they fall asleep upon arrival.  But when they are awakened, their eyes behold flashes of glory.

            They knew that Jesus was special.  After all, he had been travelling throughout Galilee teaching and healing.  He had stood up to religious authorities and held his own in religious debate.  But no one could have forewarned them about what was right before their eyes --- if they used the right filter.

            The problem with flashes of glory is just that:  they are flashes that break into our daily lives without warning.  They spring forth from unlikely suspects and reveal that there is far more to the world and its creatures that we thought.  A rabbi from a small town in an agricultural region of a small imperial province turns out to be ‘the Chosen’ whose life, death and resurrection will begin a new era in human history.

            Lately I have begun my notes of any meeting I attend by writing six words:  “Wait.  Watch.  Listen.  Ponder.  Breathe.  Act.”  I’ve taken to this filter, if you will, in order to be more open to the possibility of flashes of glory that I may miss if I give in to my temptation to be in control.

            Wait.  When I was a Boy Scout, I was taught that if I ever got lost, the first thing I needed to do was to stay put.  Stay put and wait.  If I wandered about, then I might simply complicate my dilemma.  Stay put and wait.  Start a fire.  Build a shelter.  How many people, how many of us, wander through our lives searching for flashes of glory?  We wander about, thinking that we’ll find God around the next corner, in a new job, in a new relationship.  Yet the flashes of God’s glory elude us.  Why?  Because God’s glory is often found in familiar places and in familiar tasks.  We keep searching for God, yet God is coming to us, where we are.  Flashes of glory.

            Watch.  The only reason the deep-sea scientists found the bio-fluorescent creatures was because they decided to look for them.  I remember a very difficult meeting of a national committee I was serving on.  At one point I turned to a good and wise friend who was sitting next to me.  I said, ‘Well, there’s one good thing about this meeting.  It’s not the kingdom of God.’  My good and wise friend looked at me and said, ‘If you are not looking for the kingdom of God here, Richard, you will never find it anywhere else.’  Flashes of glory.

            Listen.  More than fifty years ago the Roman Catholic church gave the whole Christian world a gift that continues to offer us glimpses of God’s glory:  the three-year lectionary.  I have now completed thirteen cycles and now am entering my fourteenth triennium.  Sometimes it is very easy for me to avoid listening carefully to readings I have heard thirteen times before.  But if I listen, I hear something for the first time or I hear a nuance that has never resonated for me before.  Flashes of glory.

            Ponder.  Have you ever had the following experience?  You are sitting in your office or your study.  Someone comes in and asks, ‘Are you doing anything?’  You respond, ‘I’m just thinking.’  ‘Oh good, I’m not disturbing you then,’ comes the answer.  And the moment is lost.  Pondering is a lost art in today’s e-mail and smartphone world.  Being lost in thought, an honourable experience, is not high on the list of admirable twenty-first century experiences.  Yet, it is in the pondering, the thinking, that we catch glimpses of God working in us, around us, through us.  Flashes of glory.

            Breathe.  On Wednesday six of us learned how to use our new automated electronic defibrillator, a gift of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  What caught my attention were the first words spoken by the recorded voice:  ‘Keep calm.’  What immediately leapt into my mind was the World War II motto --- ‘Keep calm and carry on.’  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Find the calm centre where everything comes into perspective.  Flashes of glory.

            Act.  As Peter, James and John came down from the mountain, they seemed to come to an agreement that they would not speak of what they had seen.  But they could not help but act differently.  When we see flashes of God’s glory, we cannot help but be awakened from our slumber and come to see the world differently.  To see the world differently is to be given the opportunity to live expectantly, knowing that flashes of glory will accompany us, spring forth from us to dazzle.

            Wait.  Watch.  Listen. Ponder.  Breathe.  Act.  The flashes of God’s glory are not confined to mountain tops.  They can be seen in kitchens and offices, in schools and in shops, in young and in old.  They are signs of the glory that all of creation is meant to enjoy when the kingdom of God comes in its fullness.  In the meantime we live in expectation of the moments when this glory surprises us, just as creatures of the sea, when seen in the right light, reveal the colours of the universe.