26 February 2012 / First Sunday in Lent
Mark 9:2-10 / The Transfiguration
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
“WHERE CAN WE MEET GOD?”
Today is the first Sunday in Lent for this year. I had another topic chosen for today, and once again I apologize to those of you who try to read the scriptures in advance, because I changed it up again. What you just heard read is actually last Sunday’s gospel reading. Gale chose her own topic last week and didn’t use the lectionary reading, so I felt free to go back and use it today. I used it because of a conversation my husband, Hilary and I had last Sunday. Every Sunday, when I get home after church, we do the “how did your church go today? What did you preach on?” thing. Usually we have preached on the same scripture but we’ve gone completely different directions with it, so it’s interesting to hear what the other person did. Last week I hadn’t preached at all, so I just listened.
I had already tossed around the idea of spending this Lent looking into ways to find God in the everyday of my life. I have moments that I cherish – few, but precious – when I have felt particularly close to God – even moments when I have known that God was “right here” – moments when I thought I should, like Moses, take off my shoes because I was standing in the presence of the Holy.
Last Sunday – being right with the lectionary – Hilary preached on the Transfiguration – the reading we just heard – as one of these – what we have taken to calling “thin places” – times and places when the human and the divine are separated by such a thin membrane that it seems to disappear and they come in full contact with each other – times and places where we touch God – or where God touches us – or, as Hilary put it in more poetic form for his church last week:
Walls so thin you can hear so well
you can almost see through them.
We’ve been there...
Maybe it was our first apartment,
or the only motel we could find
in some isolated, one-horse town.
And suddenly we learn more about our
neighbors than we ever wanted to know—
TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!
Then, there are those places of thinness
between our very existence
and some other reality.
Places where we
can almost see eternity,
touch the holy,
and we feel sacredness
deep in our bones!
Thin places between now and then,
where the lives we live are
called into light and being.
Thin places where
we find we are no longer who we were,
but who we are.
Thin places where
we discover we are approved
by all that is holy.*
The more Hilary and I talked the more interesting it all sounded until I decided it would make a good Lenten Sermon Series: Just how would we define a ‘thin place’? If we want to encounter God more often, what is it we should be looking for? What kinds of ‘thin places’ are there in our world? Where or when have we encountered them?
The mountain of the Transfiguration from today’s scripture was obviously a thin place – one where the human and divine touched – one where the ordinary human Jesus became, right before their eyes, something far other than the man who had walked up the mountain with them. Three ordinary men – Peter, James and John, heard the actual voice of God speaking. It was also a place where time itself collapsed. Moses and Elijah, men from far, far back in Jewish history, men who had lived a thousand or fifteen-hundred years before the lives of Peter, James, and John, suddenly walked the same earth with them, walked among them as if it was a perfectly ordinary everyday thing.
We are Christians, and as such, we state as one of our faith claims that God is with us always. Not off in some far away heaven but right here among us. But we also recognize that we don’t always see God or feel God with us – we say it more as an act of faith than from personal experience. But, every now and again – sometimes for reasons we can’t even guess at – we experience a thin place – we feel God, hear God, know God is with us.
Sometimes it’s a geographic thing. We go someplace and find ourselves experiencing the nearness of God. Sometimes it’s in prayer, and instead of just talking, we find ourselves being held in loving arms. It might be music or art or the birth of a child – thin places come unexpectedly.
Over the next few weeks I’d like to look at some of the ways we experience thin places. We’ll look at some scriptures, and maybe some non-scriptural readings as well, to see how others have experienced them. I have a few ideas of my own – ideas from my own experience – and I’d like to hear some of your experiences, as well. When we share our experiences of God, we strengthen not only our own faith, but the faith of each other as well.
Next week I’d like to look at geographic thin places – from our own culture and other’s too. Geographical locations that are considered “holy” – now and throughout history – and maybe share some of our own experiences – places that are holy just to us.
How and when and why does God break through the fog of our human experience. Let’s think about it, talk about it. – spend some time paying attention to it. Spend some time actually looking for the times and places God appears in our lives. Amen.
* poem copyright, 2012, Hilary F. Marckx
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