Reflection: February 11 — TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY

Published on Feb 18th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         Twenty-nine years ago, I preached on this Transfiguration passage at a community worship service at Vancouver School of Theology—VST. Last week was theological Education Sunday; I’m not sure what Robin and Carol did, but as you know we are all veterans of VST, Carol attending a couple of years before me and Robin… years later!

         I was in my graduating year, 1989, and we were required to preach before the whole school assembly. Everything at VST stopped on Thursday mornings for community worship. This was the old days when we had 3 large buildings—the chapel, which is still being used by VST, and the old residence that was the Anglican building and what we called the Castle—the big Iona building now occupied by the Department of Economics at UBC. There was also married students housing in back of the Castle. Everyone gathered so that there were probably a 100 people at our community worship gatherings.

         I preached with a dear friend, Karen Dickey who also graduated in 1989. It was Transfiguration Sunday and we preached on the passage from Mark. I don’t remember much of what we said—although I have that sermon somewhere in my files. What I remember is that we were both terrified and wondered what has the church done. We’re about to graduate and they’re letting us out into the world. But we must have done OK as the principal no less, Art Van Seters, told us we’d done well. And not just the usual “good sermon”; he engaged us in conversation about what we said and told us that we had it right. The work of the gospel is in the valleys of people’s lives not just on the mountaintop, although that’s the place we aren’t in control and have to be open.

         We talked about mountaintops I recall, but we said that the work of living out the love of the gospel is where we live in the messy places of our lives: in the interactions we have with one another, in the disagreements that crop up, and when the privileges we take for granted are challenged. Karen and I talked a bit about what the Church was going through at the time in terms of sexuality. We had a professor who was adamant that the Church not ordain or commission non-heterosexual people. Karen had just come out as a gay woman and together we challenged the hetero-normative position of many within the Church. As you know, 1988 was the year that the United Church established that all members regardless of sexuality or gender identity were free to enter the Order of Ministry.

         As I wrote this sermon, I remembered more of what we said. I think we also talked about the importance of seeing the world around us with God’s eyes. Peter wasn’t too sure what he was seeing on the mountaintop when the transfiguration occurred—whatever happened there! He needed to figure it out rather than letting it be and going with the moment. But, those little experiences of Jesus and life and God and light all accumulated to change Peter, who went on to become the rock upon which the early Church was built—at least in Rome and Jerusalem.

         We all experience these moments of seeing the extraordinary, but we tend to rationalize them or dismiss them. I’ve preached about this a lot as a way of helping us all realize that spiritual experiences aren’t just for the privileged saints of the church, but are for all of us. When we see with God’s eyes, we see a whole new world. It’s kind of like that moment when Neo in the first installment of The Matrix movie realized that the computer-generated world was just an illusion and can be changed; he saw the computer code and realized there is a different way, and then he burst forth in light. When we see with God’s eyes, we see God’s code of beauty, love, grace and hope as light. We see the cords of life that bind us all together.

         I’ve always appreciated the art of the Anishinabe 1st Nation of NW Ontario where I grew up; Leland Bell, Wabimeguil—Betty Albert are two examples that I’ve appreciated. There are many more artists, including, perhaps the most famous, Norval Morriseau. I’m not expert, but I understand that there is a tradition of depicting lines emanating from animals and humans. These lines represent power, communication, prophecy, movement, and relationship. It’s a depiction of what is real in life when we open our eyes and see as the Creator sees, that we are all connected.

         It’s a whole new world when we see differently. We see the bonds that join us rather than things that separate; we see the love that unites us all in the world. We see opportunities to be with others. We see the love that holds us when we are troubled. We see the hope that opens up new vistas of opportunity. We see the futility of grasping and greed and closing our hearts to others. We see that life is beautiful and so we want to celebrate that beauty with others and help others also to see with God’s eyes.

         And when we do see with God’s eyes, we live differently in the world. We all have within us the capability to see with God’s eyes. The more we see, the clearer things become. The more love there is; the more hope. The more sense of being together. The more freedom we know.

         And so, we live in the valleys even though we might want to stay on the mountain. We live at the crossroads of life and help those who are grieving, or raging, or hurting to see with new eyes—firstly that they are made of light, reflecting Christ’s image. And secondly, that we are not alone. We stand together, hand in hand to face the world and see the world as it truly is… beautiful. Then, as David Steindl-Rast says on his website, and in his videos, “Then, it will be a good day!”


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