Text: Luke 9: 28-36
Space is always mysterious to me. At first it looks empty, but we can actually feel what is unique about the space. Not one space is the same as the other. Each space has a different energy, its own stories and memories. That’s why we feel more drawn to certain spaces than others. Think about your favorite place in the world. What is it that you like about the place? What does it do for you that no other places in the world can? What does the place say about who you are? Perhaps it can be the lake where you have spent some time. The water there is like no other to you. It makes you calm and peaceful. It makes you feel welcomed and loved. Although you can’t be there as often as you like, just knowing it’s there gives you an assurance that you belong to this world. Perhaps your favorite place is your home, where you can feel at home, and be yourself. It has become part of you, and you have become part of your home. You can’t separate the two. In fact, it is your most faithful companion. It has always been there for you. It has experienced what you have experienced sharing joy, sorrow, tension and relaxation. A space speaks to us, and we respond by showing our appreciation or by creating something in the space.
The place where Jesus and his close friends went to was a very special one. It was a mountain but none of the accounts in the gospels identify the high mountain of the scene by name. What made the place special was what they experienced. While Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. And there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, who were talking with Jesus. Elijah and Moses represent the Prophets and the Law. Their talking with Jesus would signify the high spiritual status of Jesus. So the spectacle must have made a huge impact on the disciples.
Peter said to Jesus, “Mater, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke kindly added that Peter did not know what he said, which I find a bit cruel. I think, Peter’s response is very human; anyone who experiences a thin place can say that. Thin places are places of energy. A place in the world where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. The mountain they were in became a thin place because of the sacred encounters. What Peter expressed was his gratitude for the thin place, and his longing to stay in that moment. We also express the same desire. “Oh I wish this happiness was permanent” or “I wish I could live here forever.”
What’s interesting is what happened the day after when they had come down from the mountain. They were surrounded by a great crowd, and a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. I begged your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn’t do it.” Their mountain top experience was followed by a sense of failure and an insult in public. I think Luke intentionally put together the two dramatically different examples – the glorious revelation on the mountain top and the mundane and uneventful daily life in the village. We are invited to reflect on the gap between our mountain top experiences and our daily limits and struggles. How to bridge the gap depends on what we want to create in the space we are given, at home, in the communities and here in this church.
Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with my colleagues in ministry. We shared our joys, challenges, hopes and struggles of ministry. One particular insight still lingers in my mind. One minister who is serving in one of the most diverse communities in Winnipeg and I found something in common between the two churches. Her congregation has become such a hub for its surrounding community. We have become a community centre, and people of all walks of life come in seven days a week. But the people from both congregations are beginning to ask very similar questions. Where is our place in all of this? Where is the place for spiritual development and nurture? I take those questions as a sign that deep in our hearts we want to continue to explore our spirituality without any limits and beyond any boundaries. We have a desire to bring what we have experienced on the mountain top into the valley of uncertainty and the village where we hear cries of those around us, and feel the pain of the world. That’s how this space, our ministry partner will continue to be a meaningful place for all.
Our space has been faithfully serving us and the needs of our community. It has a unique energy, and it bears its own stories and memories. But they are also ours. We have created so many wonderful experiences and memories with this space. It has become part of us, and we have become part of it. The space speaks to us, and it invites us to continue to explore the endless possibilities for sacred encounter with God and with others.