Scripture: Luke 9: 28-43a
I am one of those types of people that comes to believe that every story about Jesus, what he has done in the past, and really in the present and future quickly become my favorite. I would have to say that it is not because of the events but how I read scripture. I love to read, I love to hear people tell stories. When I read and listen to the stories my mind is somehow transported into a different time and place. I guess I am really the kind of person that could still spend a day in a library just surrounded by books.
A child reads and listens to stories differently than most adults. They do not just hear the story they visualize and become part of the story. They tie a cape on their back to become the characters, and they begin to carry the story on in their play. They not only hear the story they often become the story. Well maybe that was not the way you interacted with a book when you were younger, but it is how I did, my mom had video evidence of it. Miraculously that evidence went missing before she could use it against me.
How often do we read this story of Jesus, and just sit and ponder the theological implications of the situation? Come on everyone…Jesus was GLOWING; let your imagination get the best of you. He went up to the top of a mountain, started praying and began to glow. Scripture can be fun sometimes. Just think about it for a bit. What would you think about Jesus if you saw him standing there glowing before you? It’s probably best that he only brought Peter, James and John up there with him, I don’t know if Thomas could have handled it. He’d probably want to poke him with a stick or something.
The imagination is an amazing tool that many adults have let atrophy as they begin to mature. God gave us this mind and this ability for a reason. It is in the imagination that he can give us the greatest inspiration. Einstein began his theory of Relativity on a bus in a daydream, the author James Barrie was inspired to write one of the greatest plays, Peter Pan, watching children actively imagine as they played. And oddly enough some of the greatest theological and inspiring writings have come from using the imagination to visualize and interact with scripture.
I have often asked you to imagine the scene in scripture. To meditate on a character or what you might do if you were hearing the words directly. Today is no different. How could I not ask you to imagine this scene? Jesus was GLOWING! So I want you all to imagine this, make it as fantastic as you can, and answer one question: Would you want to stay?
Jesus withdrew often to pray. I have been saying this for the past few weeks. This is what is going on in this scripture. This time He takes three of his closest friends with him as he prays. In this time of prayer something amazing happens. This is not something that Jesus found strange but his friends were shocked. Have you ever really thought about this? Of course we can quickly say, “he didn’t find it strange he’s God.” I do not think that that answer is acceptable. It basically leaves out the reason for bringing the three friends up with him. Of course if he was trying to show them that he was God it might be a descent answer. But I think he was trying to prove a point that went beyond, I believe he was trying to prove to his disciples just how important and powerful prayer is.
Prayer is more than lifting our requests up to heaven to try to twist God’s favor to sway our way. Prayer is transforming. Remember Jesus started to GLOW! Prayer is where we join together with God, it is in prayer that God’s spirit begins to transform our lives and renew our minds. It is in prayer that we learn to hear the voice of God, where we discover who we are created to be. It is prayer where we become Children of the Light.
I love that phrase from our older Quaker vocabulary, Children of the Light, along with another phrase holding in the light. I really think it gives a wonderfully visual concept that connects this story with the power of prayer. Being held in the light means we take that concern of our friends into our hands and lift them up to God and somehow pass our hands beyond that veil that separates the realms of reality and place that concern before God. It also attaches us with the concepts of God presented by the writer of John when he speaks of the true light, which enlightens everyone, and the light shining into the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it. That in the light there is life. The light John speaks of in the beginning of his Gospel is filled with imagery that links right into this story. Jesus was Glowing.
Another man also known to have a radiant skin condition met Jesus on that mountain. Moses would also withdraw often to pray and when he did he would return to the camp and people would be afraid of him because his face would be shining, and as he stayed in the camp it would gradually fade. It happened so much that he would put a veil over his face, because the people began to notice the fading more than the shining. Moses was transformed. He too would glow after he spent time in prayer with God.
Then another man was seen, a man who spent most of his time running away from people out to kill him, because when this man went into prayer fire would come out of the heavens, and one time the fire that came down lifted him up carrying him beyond the veil. Fire and light, both have an illuminating property. These two pillars of faith were right there with our glowing Jesus.
The discipline of prayer is something similar between all of these figures. When we read about the prayers of these men they are not often eloquent like a politician’s speech, but are more likely simple words uttered out of a deeply intimate relationship. These men were drawn to pray, not out of duty but they found that the time they spent in prayer was where they drank the drafts of life. And when these men prayed it was as if the very laws of nature were held in suspension.
Prayer is powerful but it is not magical. These men of ancient Hebrew history seemed to control God through prayer but that is not the truth. These men knew God. When Elijah prayed for the fire to come down on the alters of Carmel he did not command God but simply acknowledged that that moment was a good time for God to do what He had already told Elijah He was going to do. When Moses pleads before God for the sake of Israel, he did not change God’s mind but God was actually revealing to Moses what He was already doing and would continue to do. The same is true today. We say that we believe in the healing power of prayer, and I do believe, but I do not control God but instead we converse with God about a shared concern and He reveals his plan. I believe that Prayer changes things, like some many of our Christian authors claim, but I believe that that change is more often in our own perspective as we grow closer to the one that holds the world in his hands and places the stars in the skies with his finger tips.
So have you encountered the incredible Glowing Jesus? Have you experienced that time in the light, in a place where it seems as if everything around you just stops as you enjoy time in prayer? All to often we rush through prayer jumping in and out before the light even gets warmed up. But there are other times where it seems as if God was sitting in a chair waiting for us to stumble in. I have been in the light, no I am not saying that I glowed, but I have been in a place where the intimacy with God real. In that place I knew the mind of God for the situation that I held in the light. More often than not the conversation revealed that what I was asking was wrong and that God had something else in mind.
The disciples wanted to build shelters and stay there on that mountain because they like many of us were not accustom to hanging in that suspended state where the past, present, and future can all meet. They had a taste and they failed to realize what the true power of prayer really is. Prayer is where we talk with God. To talk with God means we tell Him what our needs are but also wait so He can tell us what His needs are. He may let us know that He is going to act in some supernatural way, He may tell us to just leave that concern for Him to worry about, and He may tell us to do what is right. There are even times where there is no concern we carry but we just go to spend time with our Friend. It is good for us to be there, just as the disciples said but we cannot stay. We cannot stay because the power of and in prayer is that it transforms us, it illuminates us and strengthens us to be the laborers God requires to extend his kingdom. In prayer we begin to see how His will can be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. In a sense prayer is where our imagination and God’s imagination meet and we can see and learn what it is God wants to do. We hold the concerns in the light, but we must then turn to walk back down that mountain to carry the answer and love of God back down to the people to whom we have been called to serve.
The very next day the incredible Glowing Jesus and his three disciples walked down the mountain and into a crowd to minister yet again. They immediately were met with agents of the adversary trying to leach the joy of that mountain radiance away. Yet the crowd knew that there was something about Jesus, something attracted them to him something drew them in. The darkness shall not overcome the light. And all were astounded at the greatness of God. We meet God in prayer, He illuminates and transforms us to do what he created us to do, and he sends us back out. We do not have to know exactly how everything will work, we just need to go and do what we are called to do, to shine in the darkness.
Prayer, Worship, and Ministry. The three things Jesus taught his disciples to do. Love God, Embrace the Holy Spirit, and Live the Love of Christ with Others are the three things we as Willow Creek Friends are called to do. They are the same, it is the journey of faith boiled down to the purest form, but often things in the purest form are also the most powerful. If we were to actually live this pure faith what would happen? I asked earlier as we imagined this scripture being played out before us if we would want to stay? I now ask as we join each other in Holy Expectancy and open worship will we be willing to go?