Thursday, 4 February 2016

Prospect

The Rev'd Robert Warren                                                                                                                                Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)


The depiction of the Transfiguration by the Renaissance painter Raphael was the artist's last painting prior to his death in 1520. You'd be forgiven if you passed it in a gallery at the Vatican and
said "What the heck?" Jesus seems to float in the air above his sleepy disciples.   Moses and Elijah have been dredged up from distant history and are hovering at each side of him.  Meanwhile, at the bottom of the mountain, the characters from his next more typical healing miracle (the bracketed bits in our lectionary reading for this Sunday) appear to be waiting for things to get back to normal again once the enigmatic events on the mountainside are over. You'd return to your hotel room from the Vatican museum and you'd look the story up in Luke's Gospel to see if you could get some clarity about the events depicted in the painting.

You might not be that much further ahead.  Peter who was there on site clearly didn't understand what was going on and possibly never did.  Jesus himself told his disciples to keep the experience to themselves - this glimpse into his glory - as something which not only defied explanation but was not even meant to be explained. It just was and it was what it was.

What the heck, indeed!

Line up to the left those for whom a puzzle, a paradox or a mystery is a good thing which shows us
to be small creatures in a world which is big and rich and beautiful. We are in God's hands. He is
not in ours. That we are not in control of all the facts is to us some comfort and makes of our life
and progress a truly worthy adventure.

Line up to the right those who believe that any mystery simply means that we are not yet equipped
with the math or the software to properly run the numbers.

You can guess where I stand on this. It may be why acts of worship where we sing and process
about, tell stories, dress up and ring bells offer to us the glimpses of glory which even a
competently written sermon can merely explain. The explanation cannot hold a candle to the
experience. It's why the famous mystics can never really tell you what they've seen - their
experiences cannot easily be broken down into propositions. They will only invite you to set
yourselves to the task of applying that attention in your own lives to the presence of God within and
around you.

The frustration of not being in control of the facts - even of feeling and looking like a bit of an idiot
when the lid is taken off and we get a glimpse of God's glory in the midst of life - might be a helpful
part of the process. As Peter says, just before he then gets it wrong, "Master, It's good that we're here". That might be enough. We might want to stop applying our inferior arithmetic to the story of our lives and begin to listen to, look out for and even be nourished what we cannot yet fully understand.