Saturday, August 5, 2017

Becoming Who We Are: Reflections on the Transfiguration (6 August 2017)

Becoming Who We Are
Reflections on the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of the Lord
6 August 2017

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

Luke 9.28-36

                  9.28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.  29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.  30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.  31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.  34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.  35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.  And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

            A few years ago, shortly after I became Rector, a small group of us attended a stewardship workshop sponsored by the Diocese.  The theme of the workshop focused on ‘telling our story’.  This theme served to remind us that stewardship, often confined to talking about financial resources, is actually about a community of faith that seeks to draw others into a shared life of being disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

            As part of our work, we were asked to develop a short statement that we believed described the community of faith to which we belonged.  So we chatted, we discussed and we finally crafted a statement which appears every Sunday on the front cover of our worship bulletin.  I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at it closely, but let me remind you of what it says:

  • Life is rich here at St. Faith’s and we think it is worth sharing.
  • We are a small dynamic community, open to diversity, passionate and compassionate, rooted in the Anglican tradition of worship, prayer and music.
  • We enjoy laughter and are not afraid of tears.  We hope you will join us as you journey through all the seasons of the year and of your life.

It is, we hoped, and still hope, an accurate description of who we are.  But even more importantly, it is a description of who we are committed to becoming.  It is a statement about what we believe the three disciples would have seen had we, as a community, been transfigured on the mountain top.

            You see, the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus is not about an event.  It is the revelation of the life-long process of becoming who one is.  I do not doubt that the three disciples were troubled by what they saw.  But the Jesus they saw at the top of the mountain was the same Jesus they knew at the foot of the mountain before their climb and the Jesus they would journey with to Jerusalem when they returned to the plains below. 

            This is why Jesus stops Peter from building a shrine on the mountain top.  Peter wants to hold on to this moment and create a pilgrimage site that others could visit.  Jesus gives Peter the good news and the bad news:  The good news is that the vision they have seen is not limited to the mountain top.  The bad news is that all Jesus’ disciples have now been initiated into the life-long journey of becoming Jesus’ continuing body in the world.  Despite our shared desire to be ‘somewhere’ and ‘settled’, Jesus tells the three disciples and us that ours is a journey that begins at birth, continues through our life and does not stop at death.  We are always, whether as individuals or as Christian communities, in the process of becoming who we are, the already but not yet of discipleship.

            Life is rich here at St. Faith’s and we think it is worth sharing.  Life is rich here and has been rich here for seventy years.  But we cannot deny that there are challenges before us if our rich life is to continue into the next seventy years.  We cannot assume that our neighbours will simply walk through our doors, although some do from time to time.  All around us are people who need to hear about this community that lives for service beyond its doors and that finds meaning in worship.  It is good news to share.

            We are a small dynamic community, open to diversity, passionate and compassionate, rooted in the Anglican tradition of worship, prayer and music.  Our dynamism, our passion and compassion are rooted in our Anglican way of being disciples of Jesus.  That way of discipleship springs from our particular commitment to Scripture as interpreted by reason and tradition.

  • Scripture:  God has spoken, is speaking and will speak to us and to all who listen through these ancient texts.  Our task is to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ them, to ask the question, ‘What is God saying to us --- to me --- in the Scriptures we hear read and proclaimed?’
  • Reason:  Human experience, human wisdom and human common sense help us discern what the Scriptures mean in today’s context.  Anglicans fear no conflict between science and faith, between lived experience and received tradition.  We believe that the Spirit moves within and around us to reveal more and more of the mystery of God in our lives and in creation.
  • Tradition:  We are not orphans.  We have a heritage of religious thinking and acting that gives us perspective both on the Scriptures and on human experience.

            We enjoy laughter and are not afraid of tears.  We hope you will join us as you journey through all the seasons of the year and of your life.  What most people in our community do not seem to know is that a community of faith such as ours is a place of joy in knowing that we are God’s beloved ones.  We can take our sins and failures seriously, because we take God’s forgiveness and grace more seriously.  Our sins, failures and short-sightedness are not ‘terminal’ conditions but part of the process of ‘growing up into the maturity’ revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth.  We are committed to a long-range vision of the renewal of the world and to a life-long relationship with the Holy One who is the source of all that is, seen and unseen, known and unknown, expected and unexpected.

            So here we are today on the mountaintop with Peter, James, John and Jesus.  Along with many of our neighbours and friends we may wish to pause for a moment, to create a shrine or two, to hope that our journey of faith has come to a fruitful conclusion.  But our time on the mountaintop is, perhaps, the spiritual equivalent of a long weekend towards the end of summer.  Even as we enjoy the break in our routines, we know that Tuesday will come and our responsibilities will return.  But as the disciples of Jesus we can greet the coming week as one more stage in our journey towards becoming who we are, living images of God who participate in God’s loving work of renewal and reconciliation.  The good news is that we know who we are and who we are to become.  And I dare say, the good news is that we still have a ways to go on our journey towards our destination.  I would be sorry if there weren’t just a few more chapters in our story.

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