The Galaxies of God, the Light of Jesus is in our midst.

 

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Mark 9:2-9

A few years ago, Jackie and I explored the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon for the first time. We enjoyed our first trip so much we returned with our two daughters and a good friend a couple years later. As you can imagine, rafting down an unknown river that contains some of the most dangerous rapids in the United States can be quite a thrill. Hiking the Canyon was brutal – it is an upside down mountain that changes one mile in elevation from top to bottom where dust permeates every pore and opening.

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What I loved the most were the moments of the sunset and the rising moon, casting shadows on the deep canyon walls, and the beautiful night sky, unencumbered by not one city light that could drown out the majesty of the millions of galaxies with stars, moons and planets that felt like you could reach out and touch. We would lay on the sandy beach after a long day on the water and stare for hours, watching the man made satellites orbit across the sky, counting the shooting stars that we would never even notice at home because of the foggy shroud of city lights rising into the atmosphere. As tired as we were, we had a hard time falling asleep, such was the excitement of the experience of pure natural light.

The experience of rushing water that carved a river out of the rock formations over millions of years combined with the nighttime experience of the sources of light from the distant galaxies provided an opportunity to reflect on God’s creation that left nothing short of speechless awe and astonishment for us. As hard as I would try to describe that experience for you beyond the words I have already shared, there is not a way for me to help you fully envision what many experience in such places as the Grand Canyon. You just have to be there to understand.

It is difficult to describe the emotions of never wanting to leave that place after spending only a few days there. It is probably hard to comprehend why one would want to stay in such a primitive feeling place when a comfortable room with hot running water and air conditioning was waiting at the top of the Canyon. You just had to be there. And as much as we wanted to stay there, we knew this could not last forever. As much as the water would continue to flow and as the cool nights would follow the scorching hot days, we knew we needed to return to our home and community because Jesus is there as well; he is just not as easy to see and experience.

We all have had those moments, moments when we witness that raw occasion of the overwhelming and indescribable experience of Jesus, feeling such closeness with the God of Creation. Such an occasion occurs for Peter, James and John. As they scale that mountain with Jesus, night begins to fall and the surrounding silence of the wilderness invites their curiosity as they follow Jesus. Peter, James and John are likely asking, “what can possibly happen next that we have not seen already?” At this point, the disciples have already experienced the wonders of Jesus’ presence – healings, exorcisms, miraculous feedings of masses of people, raising one from near death and so on. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah just six days before they go on their little hike.

What the disciples are about to experience is even more impacting than anything else to this point. As Peter, James and John arrive at a resting place with Jesus on the side of that mountain, two dead prophets appear – Moses and Elijah are in conversation with Jesus, who becomes a dazzling array of light beyond comprehension. The same Jesus that sweated with them as they hiked up the mountain is now transformed. Jesus, in his dazzling white robe and his conversation with Moses and Elijah is such an overwhelming experience of light and life as ever imagined by Peter, James and John. As terrified as they are, they don’t ever want to leave. So much so, that they want to experience it over and over and over again. Peter says, “Let’s stay here, this is a good place, we are in great company. We don’t have to go anywhere Jesus. We can make our homes right here and just stay here.”

In one instant, this awesome experience, this glimpse of uniting of the prophecy of Elijah’s return as the inauguration of the coming Messiah with Moses the founder of Jewish law pointing to the dazzling presence of Jesus. In one fleeting moment, the voice of God speaks ‘this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And in the next moment, the disciples’ experience reverts to staring at the blistered toes of their dirty feet, the reminder of the journey of climbing that mountain. Now they must come down the mountain. And Jesus charges Peter, James and John to keep this to their self until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. And indeed they did tell the story again. The dazzling light and the prophetic conversations are now a memory but yet a memory and story imprinted in the minds of Peter, James and John that has been told and read over and over and over again. Jesus the shining light of God is transfigured.

We experience the light of Christ in a different way today. Just as I can’t fully describe what I experienced in the Grand Canyon and as much as we read and tell the story of the transfiguration on this last Sunday before Lent, Jesus invites us to seek and find his dazzling light for ourselves in this place at this time and not hide it from anyone. We don’t have to go the bottom of a canyon or the top of a mountain to experience the dazzling presence of Jesus or God’s creation. But we do have to open ourselves to the reality that, even though we might live in a place where the proverbial “city lights” brought on through our culture or our self serving distractions dim the presence of the stars and their galaxies, the stars and their galaxies are still right here and…….. so is Jesus.

Jesus is with us the same – in the ordinary and in the dazzling and the miraculous. The miracle of Christ is his presence in the not so exciting moments of our life when we don’t necessarily say, “you had to be there”: we glimpse the glow of Jesus through the kindness and love of our neighbor or a needy child, the chirping bird that joyously awakes us in the morning, the sounds and smells of spring breaking out of winter, the glimpse of the crescent moon that seems to touch Venus and Mars on the Western horizon. These are the places where Jesus teaches us about our relationship with him.

Jesus lives in the transfiguring moments of our life and in the ordinary moments as well. We just have to be “there” to understand. And when I say “there” I mean here and now, in this moment, in this ordinary place, not some exotic mountain or majestic canyon. We so often permit the various “city lights” of life dim the working presence of Jesus in our own life, when in fact the dazzling light of Christ is shining eternal in our hearts and minds.

I pray we find Jesus in our daily living. To fully know Jesus, we have to be with him on the mountains and the valleys and everywhere in between. This is the pure truth of God’s message to us when God says when: “This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to Him!” It means to never stop listening and looking for Jesus’ presence with us. The galaxies of God, the light of Jesus is in our midst, patiently waiting for us to discover and be in relationship with him. TCGB.

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Comments

  1. paggie mcspadden says:

    Good job. I know this was a great amount of extra work, but I believe that many will be served by it.

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