Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Today, Luke’s Gospel, the story of the Transfiguration, sheds light on each of these words. But I would like to began by talking about the revelation itself.
One summer Sunday, years and years ago, I came as I usually did to the 10:00 service in this Cathedral.
Back then there was no robed choir in the summer. Things were simpler. Some volunteers rehearsed before the service and sung an anthem, or an extra hymn, during communion.
Now, it’s never unusual to see visitors in this place, especially in the summer. I noticed a man who came in by himself, and even though I was a relative new Anglican I knew he was a visiting bishop because he was wearing a clerical collar and a purple shirt. He sat right there (gestures) in front of this pulpit… a fairly ordinary looking, older gentleman. When communion time came, I processed with everybody else up to the high altar and then came back down to my pew. My eyes happened to fall on this man again, as he sat there quietly, probably in prayer. And I swear he was glowing! I had never seen anything quite like it, it was as though there was a light bulb inside his skull. Later I found out that this was Henry Hill, he was indeed a holy man and he had just arrived in Montreal to come to the Benedictine Priory established by Dom John Main here to teach and promote contemplative prayer.
What did I see? What did the disciples see, at the transfiguration? A spiritual reality– becoming perceptible for a moment. This is rare, and it doesn’t happen in any way that we can control. In fact, we might miss it? Ignatius of Loyola describes God’s COURTESY, how the divinity doesn’t hit us over the head. I almost didn’t see what I saw. And the disciples, well, they were nearly asleep. A spiritual reality was being revealed in a way that just doesn’t make sense, in terms of how we think the world of matter and physics works. So we are left … like Peter and James and John … with more questions than answers.
Look at Peter, saying “let’s build three tents here. “He did not know what he was saying”. And this is not surprising! Because right here, God is revealing precisely Who God Is, IN CHRIST. “This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to him.”
Now, it is so not a coincidence that this event happens during a time of prayer. THE WAY is many things, but one thing that Jesus makes very clear is that prayer is not optional. And while he does go off by himself sometimes, this morning’s Gospel… and what we are doing here this morning… shows that important prayers happen when the followers come together.
• Prayer for the world rises every time we worship.
• Prayer companions stand ready during communion time…. They will be ready this morning in the side chapel…. for anyone who wants to take a moment to share a personal prayer— a thanksgiving, a desire, a concern for themselves or for others—with God.
• Silences during our worship gives spaces for the prayer of the heart
• Retreats have long been part of Christian life… your fellow parishioners have experienced these, and will be glad to tell you more. I personally think retreats are a wonderful part of the faith life.
Because Jesus’ invitation is an integral part of THE WAY.
“Jesus took with him Peter, and James, and John.”
And where does that way lead? This morning, we discover it leads to the TRUTH. And this truth, frankly, blows the disciples away.
Ephraim the Syrian wrote a famous hymn about it:
He came down, and veiled his face with a veil of flesh. In the brilliance of his light, all Jordan became light. He was radiant on the mountain to a small degree, yet they the apostle called the ‘pillars’ were shivering, trembling, and aghast. He granted them a glimpse of his secret glory to the extent that they could bear.
The Truth is that Jesus the one who walks with us is also the Christ whose nature is impossible for us to comprehend in this life. This revelation shows us the paradox of that. I was browsing through Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity last weekend, and I was really delighted when I read that while he trusts in the God “in Whom we live and move and have our being”… the God of what he calls the ‘evolving church,’ he also regularly prays to a more familiar, more comfortable and comforting God, a God he can talk to. And he sees no problem with holding both these images. Because it’s not a question of one or another. It’s both! In the words of the Athanasian creed, “So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.”
You might regard this as the Church’s commentary on the luminous cloud we are gazing on this morning. The TRUTH is that GOD’s GLORY is WITH HUMANS, as shown in Christ Jesus.
Rhonda said last week that Candlemas marked the halfway point between Christmas and Easter… a point when the light of Christ is being more and more revealed. And this story of the Transfiguration marks the transition between that time of revelation and Holy Week for a good reason… and the reason is, that the WAY, including prayer, and the TRUTH, which we have seen is numinous and glorious, are not given to us simply to delight, inspire, comfort or even astound us. Peter… and I love Peter because he is always ready to respond to say what he is thinking… says “Lord it is wonderful to be here!” Yet when the disciples saw his Glory they also saw him speaking with Moses and Elijah about his departure/ or exodus/ ”which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”. And, as we know, none of them stays on the top of Mount Tabor.
The fact is, we have a walk to take if we want to stay with the One we Love.
We are asked to share his LIFE. When I come … into the Presence of the TRUTH, that presence can surprise and change me. When I’m off course (that is to say, “not on the way”) I can, God willing, receive a signal about that in prayer. When I’m ON course, I can… by God’s grace … get an affirming signal. Ignatius called these signals desolations and consolations, revealing the TRUTH as clearly in their own way as the mountaintop experience we just heard about. And we all need this kind of direction… a sort of heavenly GPS… in our lives.
And the LIFE… well, it’s definitely not a solo trip. There are things to be done.
• You might want to open up St Luke’s gospel and read about the works …and the healings and teachings …that come next… all done in community.
I received a planner this year that came with a little card (hold up imaginary card in air) with the quotation, “God Comes To You Disguised as Your Life”.
• This morning the Social Justice Action Group is asking us to consider which one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we want to work on during Lent.
• We will be walking together as a worshipping community through the narrow gate of Pancakes and Sausages, and into Lent.
• We will be offering study, and sharing, and worship, here in the downtown.
This is discipleship and it is also a faithwalk and it is also lifegiving. We will be meeting God, disguised as our life.
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.