Sermon – February 7th 2016
By Roland Legge
Transfiguration Sunday Year C
Gospel: Luke 9:28-43
Imagine you are going on a retreat with Jesus up the mountain. Why a mountain? You see, it was believed that God was more present in high places such as hills and mountains. Moses also liked to commune with God on a mountain top. Where do you go to commune with God?
I like to think that it was the disciples who really changed on the mountain top. For the first time his followers really understood in every cell of their bodies who Jesus was. He was the one they had been waiting for. He was the Messiah they had long hoped for even though he was not the great military leader they thought he would be.
This must have been an emotional high! They knew they were walking on holy ground. But it was not an experience that would be easy to share with others, so they remained silent. Few would believe them because Jesus was not the type of person the Jewish people were expecting.
Then it was time to return back to the messy world. It would not be easy. Yet this encounter with the Holy on the mountain changed Jesus followers. I suspect they became more confident, courageous and spirit filled to continue journeying in the way of their master Jesus.
Where have you experienced the holy? I think we usually become aware of these experiences after they have happened. These are what we call liminal times when the holy and mundane become one.
As a child I can remember being awed by my ability to walk. My sister Carol and I were staying with our Aunt Helen in Bracebridge while our parents traveled to Montreal for Expo 67. I have memories of walking around the back yard in utter awe of the complexity of the human body.
During the summers of 1985 and 1988 I worked as a student at First United Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which is still one of Canada’s poorest communities. As a child growing up in Vancouver I was taught to avoid the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. It took me out of my comfort zone.
Here in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, I discovered a small town right in the heart of Vancouver. I experienced many people living out of the Gospel from neighbours helping neighbours, church ministries sharing the physical, emotional and spiritual abundance of God’s love and social agencies all striving to make a difference in the lives of people who had a higher number of obstacles to overcome than most other people.
You see, up to then, I had not lived in small town so it was a wonderful shock to me to when people would talk to each other on the street. While there was a lot of hurt and pain there was an abundance of care for each other.
As a minister I am privileged to hear the stories of many people’s lives. Each person has a powerful story to share. Often during and after a visit, I am reminded once again that I stand on holy ground. I have heard stories of great hardship and grace.
I always marvel when people are able to turn destructive time in their lives into ministries of grace. I think of a young woman who traveled around Alberta telling the story of how she contracted HIV/AIDs so she could prevent others from getting it. I think of another woman I met who told her story how she got out of a violent relationship so others who find themselves in abusive relationships would be encouraged to leave and get help. When I was talking with both of these women I thought I was standing on holy ground.
I love having the opportunity to get together in a small group to deepen my faith in community. I remember when I was part of small group studying the book “A Hidden Wholeness” by Quaker, Parker J. Palmer. It introduces us to the spiritual discipline of creating “Circles of Trust” which are groups formed to help each of us to listen to our souls, the spirit of God, within us. I found that our time together in our group felt like sacred time. It comes out of my Quaker tradition that uses “Clearness Committee” to help its member and adherents to make some major choices in their lives. It is amazing feeling to sense the power of the holy working through each of us. Do you feel the spirit alive in Foam Lake United Church?
Another favourite author I have is Anne Lamott. She has an amazing ability to show how we encounter the holy in all the ups and down of life. She shows us how “Mountain top” experiences can happen just about anywhere. She describes in her book “Traveling Mercies” how she and her son Sam were shown that they are valued members of the community and even more importantly children /adults of God by the folk of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church even before Sam was born. Anne was a single Mom.
Sam was welcomed and prayed for at St. Andrews seven months before he was born. When I announced during the worship service that I was pregnant, people cheered. All these old people, raised in the Bible-thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped. Even the woman who’s grown up boys had been or were doing time in jails or prisons rejoiced for me. And then almost immediately they set about providing for us. They brought me casseroles to keep in a freezer; they brought me assurance that this baby was going to be part of the family. And they began slipping me money.
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott Anchor Books 1999 Page 101
Think of the times you have encountered God close at hand. Who have been the people who have accepted you just for who you are? When have you sensed the awe of being alive? When have been the times you known deeply within you that you have a Holy purpose in your life?
I think we need to be reminded over and over again that the Spirit is alive and well in our community working through each of us. It is tough work, but the Spirit brings us hope and the vision to see the possibilities. Much of the work you are doing now to discern how you will continue ministry with less clergy support is being done like a clearness committee where you are searching for the will of the Spirit. It helps us to see beyond our own ego’s that too often gets in the way of making the most life giving choices.
We live in a world where we allow a veil to cover the holy, partly to protect ourselves from the awesomeness of God. Yet the holy, the sacred and mystical are always around us if only we are open to the glimpses of the divine. May we all remain open to the Spirit knowing there is a better way forward.