Click video below to view the full service video for Sunday, February 23, 2020, posted on our YouTube Channel
Near the end of February every year, just as we start to really feel the light in our neck of the woods increase, we read together the story of Jesus up a mountain with his friends. They are in the fog, and this is both literal and metaphor, and I can relate. Fog. Light. Mystery. Insight. Somehow God is in the midst of it all. And this week, the Scouts will offer some leadership.
Reflection by Rev. Will Sparks
We woke up one morning a while back and Treena said to me, is that smoke coming over our house. And I looked out and saw the fog literally pouring over the rim of our eave and down into our back yard. It wasn’t so thick that the light was cut off, so it was beautiful, and kind of eerie- mysterious. Early in the morning, before the fog is rubbed from behind the eyes, the fog drifts over the house, and sets a perfect mood for writing a sermon for Foggy Sunday.
You didn’t know this was called “Foggy Sunday?” Well, me neither actually, but it should be considering the amount of fog that drifts through the scriptures today.
There is Moses, on the top of the mountain, gone up to be given God’s instruction. They have finally made it to Mount Sinai and this is the priest’s account of what happened. It is described like a light and smoke show. There’s cloud and booming sound and fire, and Moses is called right into the middle of it. And years later, when the story is told and re-told around the campfire, it is always said that nobody quite knew what happened up there, but Moses was never the same again.
And then there is Matthew, writing years after the events took place, telling the story that had been passed on to him about the time Jesus took his friends up the mountain. And here’s the fog again and a booming voice, the appearance of figures, and it is frightening. They too came down changed. And while we remember and repeat this story, always just before the season of Lent begins, it is hard to know what to make of it, and what it might have to do with us.
If you look at the large sweep of Matthew’s gospel, you will discover that this story marks a major transition in the gospel, a kind of hinge point in the story. Jesus has been teaching and healing up to this point with only minimal opposition from anybody. But now he, “began to make it clear to the disciples that he was to go up to Jerusalem and there suffer much from the elders, chief priests and doctors of the law, to be put to death and on the third day, rise again,” And then on the mountain top, Peter, James and John share in an experience through which their lives are changed. Something happened up there that transformed everything.
I am not sure how long ago it was when a young Canadian astronomer named Walton climbed stiffly down from the frigid platform of the massive telescope in Northern Chile and went to look at the photographic plates that were his night’s work and there- sticking out like a sore thumb- was something that should not have been there.(slide) A Nebula- the most spectacular event in the heavens. The astronomers version of Olympic Gold! The cloud of dusty light created at the birth or death of a star. And because of his discovery, the Nebula bears his name, and his life was forever changed.
Archimedes settles into the nice warm tub after a long day and as his body displaces the water, he realizes that he knows how to figure out the purity of gold. He leaps out of the tub, grabs a towel and races through the house shouting Eureka! (I found it!) And from that moment, his life is never the same. A hinge moment in life, upon which everything turns.
A hinge moment. In life it is a moment when the fog clears and a truth stares you in the face. Sometimes it can be an awful truth, like the reality of an illness or the breakdown of a relationship. Sometimes it can be a long wished for truth, like my discovery after six years of school that despite what my classmates had chided me about, my parents were actually right, I was not stupid because I couldn’t read well, I was just starting in a different place. In any case, hinge moments are moments in our lives when the fog clears for a moment and we see the truth, and in seeing the truth, everything else changes. Hinge moments are also often decision times. “Oh, if this is what life is about, then I have some choices to make.” Hinge points are places where doors open, and close. Heavy things turn on hinges. (slide)
Peter, James and John climbed laboriously up the mountain to spend the night, sleepless and watchful in prayer with Jesus. Undoubtedly they were bewildered by all they had seen and heard up to this point- especially the stuff about suffering and death to come. And then in the night, something happened. Something stuck out like a soar thumb. Something made them say “Eureka!” Something turned a light bulb on and enabled them to make some sense out of what had, up to this point, been nonsense. “And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became brilliant as light.”
Eureka moments are not an everyday experience for us. The truth about life and the universe is not that transparent. We live much of the time in the fog. Paul spoke of seeing as in a mirror dimly. The ways of God and the mystical life of the spirit is pretty murky for us. However, I am convinced that had our Mr. Walton never spent the weeks and months and years searching the skies and puzzling to understand their meaning, there would be no Nebula bearing his name.
Had Archimedes not puzzled for years over how to purify gold, and how to measure its level of purity, he never would have been graced with the moment of discovery. Had I not struggled for six years to understand my frustrating inabilities while sensing other abilities, then I likely would not have been prepared to accept the reassuring words that finally sank in, “no you are not stupid.” The transforming experience for Peter, James and John come only after months and years of being with Jesus, pondering his teaching, trying to follow, trying often unsuccessfully to understand his ways. But it came, and their lives were changed.
While Treena and I were away these last couple of weeks we did our very best to not be wired into the news or our emails and just simply be for a bit. And we did pretty well. But the one news item that made it through to us was the situation on the blockades on the Wetsewetin territory in Northern BC and the subsequent blockades of rail lines in other parts of the country. And it felt like we were out of the country just as our generation was going through another Oka crisis. And there is plenty of pain to go around in this situation. I hear and take seriously the farmer who can’t get grain to market, and the unexpected layoffs in the rail industry, and the effects of the slow down in the economy. And I hear and take seriously the voices of indigenous people who simply stand on their traditional land and say, no. No pipeline through here. And I hear and take seriously other indigenous voices who say, actually, we want this pipeline through here. And then I hear the cacophony of people who stand with any of these parties, and the political agendas that some of them carry. And frankly, there is a lot of fog making it really hard to see the truth that is to be found in this situation. Which is why I am not going to blaze in with a definitive opinion.
But what I do believe is that we are at a potential hinge moment. We are at a moment when there is truth to be found in amongst the fog. I believe that there is truth to be found about who we are and who we will be as indigenous and non-indigenous people going forward. I believe there is truth to be found about how to move forward in just and faithful ways given our history of taking land without a treaty, imposing colonial legal control over peoples through a law called the Indian Act irrespective of how they governed themselves for thousands of years before that, and a history marked by the effects of Indian Residential schools. In all of the fog of this situation, I believe there is transformative truth to be found, but for the fog to clear on it, we will need a kind of listening, and a kind of un-coerced dialogue. It is not easy, it takes patience. It is messy, and foggy and frustrating. and nations whose land this actually is, and whose decision-making process will govern it.
I am talking about the transformation of our way of seeing and that can happen to people today. Occasionally the fog breaks, and there is light and we see clearly what had been confusing before. It doesn’t come easily, or glibly. It often does not come conveniently or even painlessly, nor hardly ever according to our schedule. And not, I believe if we are not willing to seek, and stay open. And that is what the season of Lent, into which we move this week, is all about. Seeking. Searching. Pondering. Scanning the skies for clouds of shining dust at the birth of stars. Puzzling over the scriptures. Re-doubling our search for what is holy and what is whole. And it may be that in doing so, the fog will clear, and we too will never be the same. Amen
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