Communion Meditation delivered by The Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens, Senior Minister, The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Jesse Albert Clark who lovingly served Christ and His Church for over 71 years of ordained ministry and entered eternal life on February 23, 2003 and always to the glory of God!
II Kings 2:1-12 and Mark 9:2-9
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each one of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Don't you agree that some things are better left unsaid or unwritten? Isn't it true that some events in our lives are so personally transformational, that to give them words, lessens their power for us? Some experiences are best saved for ourselves and those closest to us. They change us. They may even change the way we appear to those around us. These moments are so intensely personal, we treasure them in our hearts, but they do not find a way to our breath, to our tongues, to our voices. They are sacred. They are beyond telling . . .
In my life, I felt the intensity of such sacredness at the birth of my children. Enough said. As a pastor, through the years, I have also had such encounters with people in their dying time as they graduated from earthly existence to eternal essence. In their faces I have seen another world. In their voices I have heard a language beyond telling. Once, years ago, on a wild and windy mountain in New Hampshire, I heard the deafening sound of silence, and in that moment, I experienced the transfiguring power of God.
At birth, at death, in stillness, God transfigures time and space.
On a high mountain, long ago, Jesus was transfigured. He was changed in bodily form and became a translucent figure - dazzling in appearance. In an intensely private and spiritual moment between Jesus and God, (with Moses and Elijah appearing alongside - the two great embodiments of the law and the prophets), Jesus was changed from earthly glory into heavenly glory. This moment was so private that it happened in a cloud on the mountaintop. Somehow, it was recorded by Peter, James, and John in the writings that became our gospels. Nevertheless, this private moment was not meant for public exposure, because John, Matthew and Mark's gospels all say that silence was to be practiced by all who beheld this glory. But somebody leaked the story. Somebody wrote it down. Somehow we know this happened. And it might be wise for us not to exegete, analyze, interpret, and explain-away what this transfiguration "really means."
Christ's glory shining through on the high mountain was the holiness of the man shining through his humanness. It was his face shining through so afire that it almost blinded him. Beyond birth and death; beyond mountaintop stillness or Messianic transfigurations, you and I each experience transfiguring moments in our lives. Once in a while something like this happens to us.
We see the face of a man walking his child in the park, aglow with delight. We see the woman working in her garden, picking peas and glowing with simple joy. We see the unlikeliest person listening to a concert, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in. We see a mother playing with her infant in the snow as a strange and fetching countenance breaks forth on both their faces. Sometimes their arms are extended far beyond expectation, their feet are kicking with unceasing pleasure, their faces are twisted in delectable joy. "Every once and so often, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive - transfigures the human face that it is almost beyond bearing." (Referenced in Frederick Beuchner's Whistling in the Dark , 1988, pp. 107-108).
In that glimpse, in that moment, we encounter transfiguration. The poets speak of these moments in verse. But mostly, we encounter them and store them away in the silent and hidden dwellings of our hearts and minds.
There are holy mountains, holy places, and holy spaces in this world. The Irish call such places the Thin Places. The "thin place" is where the veil between this world and the next is so sheer that it is easy to step through. If you have been to such a place, you know that is holy. Perhaps you have a "thin place" where you go to step through to the eternal world which is only a touch away. Such places are not only good for the soul, they can be transformational.
I have found a "thin place" in Columbus. It is here. Here, in this is cathedral of Grace, the sacredness of Christ comes to light. And here, at the table of our Lord, the thin becomes translucent, for it is here that the encounter between Christ and all of us becomes manifest in broken bread and poured cup. Surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, embraced by the giver of the law and the greatest of the prophets, face-to-face with God, Christ still calls us. He still charges us to hold within our hearts the power, simplicity, and splendor of his love.
And we ask, along with Peter, James, and John - "What has changed here?" And Christ answers, "Come, for all things are ready." Amen.
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