Transfiguration

Transfiguration

Jesus wanted to pray.  This wasn’t unusual. He was always praying. He would often leave us mid evening and set off by himself, and we’d see him again sometime the next morning. This time he wanted company.  It had been a long, busy day and to be honest, I could have done with my bed, but there was something about the way he asked that made it hard to refuse. There were four of us. Peter and John, Jesus, and myself.

I wasn’t sure where we were going. Only that it was up, and up, and more up. There was very little light, and it took all my concentration to keep following. I could just about see where I was putting my next step.  There was no conversation. We didn’t have the breath for that. It seemed to go on forever. If I was tired before I started, I was exhausted now. This praying stuff was hard work, and no mistake. Finally he stopped. I guess we must have been somewhere near the top, but I couldn’t really see.  It had been warm enough as we were making the effort of climbing, but after a few minutes of pause, I could feel the chill air and drew my cloak around me. Peter, John and I had flopped down to the ground very soon after stopping. I guess we were all feeling pretty much the same.

We have never discussed that night. In fact this is the first time I have told this story. The details are burned into my memory, together with a host of swirling emotions. I have gone over them many times in my mind, but it is hard to find the words to describe quite what happened.

Jesus remained standing, a little way from us. He was praying silently. I am afraid I was shaking my head to stay awake. Too tired to pray.  Too tired to think. My body and my brain were trying to shut down and it was all I could do to fight it.  He had wanted us with him for some reason, and I was trying to do just that, but losing.  I tried to keep my eyes focused on him, and listening for anything he might say.

I thought I must have started dreaming.  Either that or the thin mountain air was playing tricks with my brain.  Jesus’ face began to radiate with light as did his clothes. It was like he lit up from within. Brighter and brighter, until I was completely dazzled. Frightening didn’t begin to cover it. It is strange how overwhelming light can feel.  I don’t have a word that describes it adequately.  I thought I knew this man I had worked alongside, but this being, radiant with glory beyond imagining, splintered all my preconceptions.

All at once there were three of them. Three shining figures talking together. It was Moses and Elijah. Don’t ask me how I knew that, I have never been able to explain that to myself – but I knew without a shadow of doubt, that is who they were, the instant I saw them. Moses was speaking to him of the ‘Exodus’ Jesus was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. A deliverance that would eclipse the rescue Moses led, by a million miles. (At the time, I barely understood what they were talking about. I heard the words, but I couldn’t take them in. I see so clearly now they were encouraging him for his journey to the cross as ‘the Lamb of God’.)  Their conversation came to a close, and Moses and Elijah appeared to be turning to leave him.

Peter’s voice made me jump. Speaking too fast and too loudly, he gabled something about making shelters for each of them. I think he wanted this extraordinary moment to last longer- I am not even sure if he knew what he was saying. The words had barely left his lips when we were all enveloped in a cloud. Weather can change very quickly in the mountains, but this was like no cloud I had ever seen. I find it hard to explain it to you. It was terrifying. Like the cloud that led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the desert- we were engulfed in God. The sense of being in the Presence of the Almighty God was electrifying. I could barely breathe. I have never felt such an intense awareness of holiness. It made me want to lie flat on my face, but I couldn’t move.  To be honest, I didn’t know if I was still alive.

Then God spoke. Spoke to me- to us.  It sounded like thunder and yet felt like a whisper. I know that doesn’t make sense, but you’ll have to believe me. “THIS IS MY SON” the words were charged with such love and power “ MY CHOSEN”

I trembled from head to foot. “LISTEN TO HIM!”  As the sound died away, the cloud melted and Jesus was simply standing there. Alone. The same man that had climbed the mountain with us, looking very human and vulnerable, and yet everything had changed.

We didn’t speak. Couldn’t speak. Even Peter, for once, was completely silent. Awestruck. I was still trembling. The command to listen was still echoing in my ears and I was listening with every fibre of my being.  Jesus didn’t say a word, but his face and his eyes spoke volumes. The light no longer blazed from his face, but my heart was aflame.

Some months later I heard him describe himself to those listening to him as “the Light of the world” and that “those who followed him would never walk in darkness” and I was instantly taken back to that mountain. How it felt as I walked back down. As if I was carrying the Light I had seen.  I understood him even less than before, and yet I would follow him wherever he led, even if I didn’t know where he was going.  I had to follow him even into the darkness, as how else would I see? How else would I hear?

And to think I almost fell asleep.

Called to Fish, Shaped to Serve

A year ago today, it was DAY 2 of my BAP ( ordination selection panel).  It was bitterly cold and there was snow on the ground in Ely. In the talk you have to give, I spoke on the subject of vocation and call, and used the following poem.

What a journey to that day a year ago …. and what a journey since.  I titled the talk

Called to Fish – Shaped to Serve

Follow me

 

Follow me !

and with those words

He turned my world

downside up and

upside down.

My heart caught fast

within His net

He hauled me in

and I could only kneel.

His words would call me on

As I stepped out of

all I knew

and tried to put my

footsteps in the sea.

Sometimes I

followed at his side,

And laughed and loved

And learned;

But there were times

He strode ahead

and I could not

see his face of flint.

Then they led

my Lord away

and I could only

follow from afar.

Once again he called

me from the shore,

bidding me

cast my nets

afresh, where I

had toiled, and

failed to find;

filling my heart

as well, and

straining both

to  breaking point.

His call was

then to feed his flock,

carry his lambs,

and give my hands

to those who

would lead me

towards my death.

“Follow me!”

though path be hard,

and way unknown;

taking His word

and flame to

peoples yet

outside the fold.

What could I

do but go?

He calls me still..

 

 

 

In one of their last recorded conversations, Jesus calls Peter to feed his sheep and carry his lambs, and the rest, as they say is history..

However to transform a fisherman into a ‘fisher of men’ , a  shepherd/pastor and a foundation stone of the church Christ was building – he had to shape him for purpose.

That shaping started with his initial call to Peter to leave his nets ( and the biggest catch of his career) and follow him into the unknown.  Many further calls would follow, that would challenge, shape and equip Peter for the role he was being asked to take on.

In musing on the subject of vocation, it seemed logical to start with one of the first to be called to build the Kingdom. Peter is someone I very much identify with-not least for his endearing quality of always having his foot in his mouth, but also for the way God turned his life upside down, and shaped him for the purposes for which he called him. We are not all like Peter, and I believe God honours our very different and unique personalities, by calling us in equally unique ways.  In His continuing calls in my journey, and in those I work alongside in parish life – I see God’s shaping hand.  It has not always been easy for me to hear Jesus call to follow him,  some times I may have wished for selective deafness!  It is my passion nevertheless, to  be a part of assisting others to both hear and heed God’s calls on their lives – to be a shaping tool in other’s journeys, even as I am myself encouraged, challenged and shaped by them.