Monday, August 5, 2013

On the other hand

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  Not originally as big in the Roman church as in other areas of the Christian universe, it finally made it to the West to commemorate a victory over Islam at Belgrade.  I guess you had to be there.  For me, it's a feast worth remembering, just like the story it calls to mind.  The Transfiguration is that moment in the Jesus narratives where the disciples should be given final proof that this is not just some Warrior David part II Messiah, but this is something else, something more.

And of course you have Peter, foot planted firmly in mouth, echoing what we all want when we experience those 'God moments.'  Can't we just stay here on the mountain? Forever? You've had those, haven't you?  Something happens and you just feel God.  Something big, small.  You do something. A ministry.  I remember back in the day, in Seminary, in the fall of 1994, some friends and I started an Evangelism ministry.  It was a long story, and one that introduced me to the underside of ministerial politics.

But at first, it was a bold vision for utilizing the resources of our seminary and taking them to smaller congregations and regions that couldn't afford the big names in Evangelism.  Our first revival was in Indiana.  I remember because we had tickets to the Ohio State vs. Indiana game, and were able to go because we were coming off a Friday Night service not too far from the Indiana home field.  We actually stayed with a family who went to the church where the revival was held.

Anyway, the first night went wonderfully, Evangelical Christian-wise.  People rededicated, we discovered a fiery young preacher who just started in school name Shawn Merithew.  The place was hopping.  People were celebrating.  All was right with the world.  The Evangelism team all went out to eat at McDonald's afterward, and we were so on fire we could have jumped up on the tables and started a service right there.  We were telling everyone around us what we did, just as if we'd won the lottery.  Not trying to convert people, but just sharing how awesome God was and how we'd seen him at work.

Sigh.  It didn't last, as I said.  I won't get into why.  But I could have stayed there that night and never changed a thing.  If the rest of my life felt like that, it wouldn't matter what else happened.  But that's not the way it is.  Just when we're on those mountaintops, when we have felt the presence of God, when all is right with the world, Jesus comes by and reminds us it's time to leave the mountain and come back down to - the troubles and trials of living. Because that is what they discovered when they came down.  Squabbling, failing, bickering, controversy.  The stuff of daily life.

For Catholics, the Eucharist is described as the source and summit of Ecclesial life.  It's supposed to be that spiritual high, a divine pit stop for us to experience a moment in the very presence of the Real Presence itself.  And yet, it's not supposed to end there.  It's not even supposed to dwell there.  As wonderful as such an experience is, it's only there to remind us, to point us to what it's really all about. To put the story fresh in our minds, and prepare us to leave the cloistered halls of the church, and get back into the world where there will be Squabbling, failing, bickering, and controversy.  And to do so in order to go forth and make disciples of the world.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.  And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.  Matthew 17.1-8 (KJV)

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