20 February 2012

Weekly Reflection - 19 February 2012

Mark 9.2-9

The Transfiguration. Like last weeks story, this is a story we are most familiar with. Jesus takes James, John, and Peter up a mountain to pray (Luke 9). While there, Jesus' countenance "shown like the sun, and his clothes became white as light" (Matthew 17). The suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and they started talking to him "about his departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem" (Luke 9).

Terrified, Peter blurts out, "It's great that we're here! I know, to keep this monumental place, let's make a temple. No, better yet, let's make three temples - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah! This way we can always come back here to worship and remember."

Suddenly God shows up like in olden times - in the form of a cloud and tells the men to shut up and listen to Jesus, but in a nicer way. Filled with awe, the three men fell on their faces (Matthew 17). When Jesus came to them and aroused them telling them not to be frightened. They stood up and Moses and Elijah was gone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what they had seen until after his resurrection.

There are several very cool points here. First, there is a definite parallel here. The mountain, the shining face, the voice from the cloud - all of this would have instantly brought to the disciples minds Moses receiving the Law. However, there are noticeable differences. The disciples actually experienced this first hand - they didn't wait at the bottom of the mountain like their ancestors. Secondly, the appearance of Moses and Elijah. There is nothing within the old story that suggests that there was anyone other than Moses on the mountain with God. Then there's the duration. Moses was on the mountain for over a month while this appears to have been just a few moments.

Another stark difference is in the disappearance of Moses and Elijah. Now, those two obviously point to the "Law and the Prophets." That is, the Jewish dispensation or what Rabbi's call "biblical Judaism." Some scholars have noted that their disappearance points to the removal of the Old Covenantal system. Between the time of the ascension and the war with Rome, Judaism and the Way were dwelling in the same space, the same time. However, when the war ended, the temple and city were destroyed, and biblical Judaism was no more. Some scholars interpret this vision as pointing to that time. (See the previous few verses were some scholars see Jesus teaching about this.)

All of this seems to point to a "thin place" - a place where our world and, what the Celtic Christians called the "Otherworld" is extremely weak; where the two worlds blend together. While the Celtic Christians saw all of life connected to the Otherworld, there were places where the space between was extremely sparce. These places were often marked by standing stones and high standing crosses. There were also entire islands that were deemed thin places.

So, the disciples experienced an extremely thin place. They walked right into the Otherworld and didn't even notice at first. This is so true even today. Particularly in the West, we have lost this sense of connection; of everything being intertwined. We think it's just us, that what we do only affects ourselves. But that view is changing. More and more, people are seeing that we are all connected to each other in ways that we never thought before. And I thoroughly believe that God's dream for our world is that it becomes a thin place. That the entire planet becomes a place where heaven and earth overlap and interlock; where they blend together. That it's not just regulated to certain spots like churches or circular clearings in oak groves. We see in the Revealing that God's Realm comes down to our realm and the two become one (Revelation 21). We, the followers of the Way of Jesus, are given the task of helping bridge that divide, of bringing in God's Realm just like we pray it every day. The "old way" of doing things is continuing to be removed and God's "new way" - the way of Christ - is slowly transforming this world.

Where are areas were we can see this taking place?
Where are the areas were we can help make this more of a reality?
What ways can we imagine that will bring about this change?
What things can we do to help reveal God's Realm?

I recently heard a story where a Jewish synagoge had out grown its current location. One day he was having lunch with his friend, a Muslim Imam (teacher), the Rabbi told him about his dilemma. "We've out grown our building and have purchased some land just outside of town. But we're torn about moving. We are so invested in acts of social justice in the community that we really don't want to move so far away." His friend said the same thing. And then they both had the same thought, "What if we do it together?" However tbey quickly realized that they would need to get Christians involved as well. Their first attempt didn't work out but they found the Episcopal diocese very willing to participate. They now are in the process of building three separate worship centers with a community center in the middle joining them all together where they can teach, learn, have community meals, etc.; where all three groups can come together on common ground.

How can something like this be a sign of God's Realm being revealed?
What would it take for something similar to happen in our communities?
What would it mean for our communities if something like this was started by the "normal" people, the laity of different faith traditions?






~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,


Br Jack+, LC

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