TransfigurationC.2004

Transfiguration of JesusC, 2004

Luke 9:28-36




EXPERIENCING GOD IN ‘THIN’ AND ‘THICK’ PLACES


‘Let’s go up the mountain.

Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky

where the earth touches the heavens,

to the place of meeting,

to the place of mists,

to the place of voices and conversations,

to the place of listening’... (WLoader, Web site).


When I read those words by William Loader,

Uniting Church biblical scholar from Western Australia,

I immediately thought of Iona and all things ‘celtic’.


Iona... where one can each day come face to face with the elements:

rain, wind, sunshine, thunderstorms and rainbows

and beautiful morning mists.


Iona... the Hebridean isle to which Columba and his monks

travelled over 1400 years ago.

And turning their backs on Ireland,

commenced a religious community.


Iona... regarded by many as a ‘thin place’

between the material and spiritual dimensions of life.


William Loader is, to my mind, picturing a ‘thin place’ in his prayer poem.

And by implication, William Loader is suggesting,

so too is the storyteller we call Luke.


With the memory of the Moses story resonating in his mind,

and a similar Jesus story as told by Mark some 20 odd years before,

Luke weaves his words into a picture-story

‘where the earth touches the heavens,

to the place of meeting,

to the place of mists,

to the place of voices and conversations,

to the place of listening’.


I don’t believe any of these stories are recording an historical fact.

But I do believe they are saying something true.

Let me play with that for a while.


oo0oo


If our storyteller Luke is one thing, it is he/she/they is consistent.

Ever since the story about Mary during the Season of Advent

Luke has been saying: 

this Jesus bloke is different, is better, than all the heroes of the past.


And here Luke continues this theme.


Luke seems to understand Jesus as a new Moses,

who mediates the new ‘law’ to his people

and will deliver them out of bondage in a new exodus.


It also seems to me another of the things being suggested in this ‘thin’ story is,

it is saying something important about

an experience of G-o-d or The Sacred.

And that something, is not about any so-called supernatural power or being.

That’s the 1st century mythical and cultural baggage.


The important bit for me, I think, is that

when we experience G-o-d or The Sacred

something like a creative transforming power

is released into our lives.


Not by coercion and power over, but rather

by lure

and suggestion

and imagination.


As Jesus was transformed before Peter, James, and John,

(as the story goes), God’s so-called ‘will’ is to transform us

in the everyday moments of our lives.


As a colleague suggests:

• If your deepest experience is loneliness,

it is the will of God to transform you from loneliness

to human connectedness.


• If your deepest feeling is fear and anxiety,

then God wishes to move you creatively past that,

to love and to trust.


That is, the Source and Creativity of Life we call G-o-d,

wants to move us beyond the meaninglessness of life

to the intensity of living,

characterised by joy and by vitality.


It is precisely this creative, transforming power of God

that moves us from the triviality of our existence

to a new level of depth in our existence

that will provide joy and zest and empowerment.


That’s the first comment I want to offer.

And I would like to think there might be 

some semblance of good news somewhere in there.


oo0oo


The second comment I want to offer is something like this...

Apart from walks along a Central Coast beach at sunset or into a lush Queensland rain forest,

few of us feel we have ever been in a ‘thin place’.

Our everyday living is done in ‘thick’ places.

In the city within concrete and steel landscapes.

In the city with its noise and traffic and flashing neon signs.


In ‘thick’ places such as the city we tend not to see
paved malls and lawn areas as ‘sacred’ or ‘thin’ space, let alone
high-rise buildings or glitzy shopping centres.

And amid the mind-blowing achievements 

“and certainties of technology, it is not difficult to lose our sense of mystery” (Millar 2000:10).


David Tacey, in his book, The spirituality revolution,

cites the 1960s theologian Harvey Cox at a couple of points.

“The secular world is the principal arena of God’s work today.  Those who are religious will have to enter more vitally into the secular world if they are to be agents of God’s reconciliation”.


And again:

“The church... must run to catch up with what God is already doing in the world” (Tacey 2003:196).


So while it might be a bit hard to hear

among all the mythology and storytelling hype,

there is more good news in this story.


• God is not aloof and detached.


• God’s presentness is like that of an expert weaver,

using the fibres of our lives,

weaving them into beautiful, powerful garments of love,

empowering us for living

and our continuing theological journeys.


• God is present in both ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ places:

in the beauty around us,

in the close encounters with death,

in a special way during a period of suffering,

in cities of concrete and sandstone,

in rain forests and church liturgies.


Don’t ignore or throw away these imaginative and mysterious experiences.

Don’t let go of those things you don’t understand or cannot explain.

Rather, meditate on them.

Delight in them.

Become a public voice for them.

Use them as imaginative power that vitalises your faith...


And as a source of strength for living

in both the valley and on the mountain top.

In both ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ places.


For Creativity God is up to something larger,

more complex and more refined

than we seem able to imagine (Sara Maitland, quoted in Tacey 2003:196).



Notes:

Millar, P. 2000.  Signposts. A publication from the former warden of the Iona Community, Scotland.
Tacey, D. 2003.  The spirituality revolution: The emergence of contemporary spirituality. NSW: Sydney. HarperCollins.

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