Doing or Being?
Have you ever been fortunate enough to just get away from everything for a while; finding a time and place when you have been able to see things more clearly?
Somebody once said that at times you have to go away to see things more clearly at home. The problem I find is that I can be so caught up in my day-to-day life that I fail to see the wood for the trees. It’s a busy world that we live in. There is always a job to do, a meeting to attend, the weekly shop, the next match to watch and of course there is our work, children to take & pick up from school… the list goes on. Sometimes we can feel that were on a treadmill ~ putting in a lot of effort but getting nowhere ~ wondering just what it’s all about. Is this all that there is to life?
Some people experience this in a different way. For them life is filled with money, success, excess and fame and their days are filled with opportunities to make more money, get more notoriety, but they too, can often wonder what life is all about. What the point of it is.
Whatever our lifestyle there is one thing we all have in common. We need to have meaning in our lives ~ a sense of purpose ~ what it is that we are here for. The bible shows that the only real meaning in life is found in Jesus and our gospel reading provides us with one of those places where we get a different view of the world and a clearer picture of Jesus & ourselves.
There are moments in scripture and moments in life when some people are allowed a foretaste of what is to come. The transfiguration is one of those times. It happens on a hill. This could be Mt. Hermon or Mt. Tabor; we don’t know. Jesus has taken Peter, James and John with him. Luke tells us that they went up to pray. Prayer is such an important element in the Christian life. So much takes place in the context of prayer and we should never be in any doubt that when we pray we begin to see the world differently; we become more ‘in tune’ with God.
Bill Hybels wrote a book ~ ‘too busy not to pray’. In he says this:
We pray because, by intuition or experience, we understand that the most intimate communion with God comes through prayer. (Too Busy not to Pray p.7-8)
I believe within all of us, there is this feeling that there is far more to life than this; that there is a God and that he is close; that if we could just reach out, we would touch him. But so often we are either too busy or we are just not sure how to do it. Bill Hybels says that what we looking for is found when we pray.
When was the last time you stopped and prayed?
I don’t mean in church ~ in the formal ways of the liturgy ~ but in your every-day lives? When was the last time you actually stopped whatever you were doing and really sought out God? Could the answer give us an insight on what we actually believe about God and Jesus and our lives?
A Thin Veil…
Back on the hill and we read of this amazing scene. I love the way theologian, Tom Wright puts it:
There are times when the ‘veil of ordinariness’ that normally prevents us from seeing ‘inside’ a situation, is pulled back. Mark for Everyone p.114
Becoming more ‘in tune’ with God involves realising there is so much more to our lives than we can see or touch or understand.
And this story also shows how thin the veil is between this world and God’s. For Peter, James and John this was one of those moments. The veil is pulled back and suddenly Jesus is surrounded by cloud as he stands in the presence of God. They see him transformed ~ his clothes become a dazzling white and his face changes. I can only imagine what they must have been like to see. Two other figures are with him. The disciples just seem to know that they are Moses and Elijah. And all they can do is watch as the three of them talk. For Jesus too this was a time when things became clearer. Both Moses and Elijah had experienced God in special, ‘mountain-top’ ways.
The Glory of God…
Moses in the reading from Exodus, comes down from the mountain with his face glowing ~ so much so that he has to wear a veil ~ and Elijah in his lifetime, experienced many wonderful miracles that God worked through him and in 2 Kings we see that Elijah doesn’t die but is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. In Moses and Elijah we are reminded of the work of God throughout history ~ to reconcile to world with himself, and in Jesus we see the completion of that work, and for Jesus this ‘mountain-top’ experience was necessary.
God is revealing to Jesus the task that lies ahead of him. In v.31 we read that Moses and Elijah are speaking to Jesus about the way in which he would soon fulfil God’ purpose. In other versions it says that they came to speak about his departure. The word here is exodus (again bringing Moses to mind). Jesus was to complete the work that both Moses and Elijah had played their part in. Jesus continues on the road that they travelled, and he shares in something that they both have experienced – standing on a mountain top in the presence of the living God.
But they have come now to speak with Jesus about his departure. Jesus ‘departure’ is of course his death. The transfiguration is a sign from God for Jesus and his followers. Jesus has such a hard road ahead of him and here we see God giving him and the disciples an experience that will transform them; that will give them the knowledge that this is real, that God is with them and even in the darkest of times that lay ahead, they can trust that their Lord will always be with them. Whatever lies on our path we too have that assurance that Jesus is with us and always will be.
Moments of clarity…
Most of us will read this and think: ‘well, it’s a nice story but so what? Those things don’t happen in the ‘real world’ so how is that a help to me?’ And that is true. I can’t remember I last saw anybody transfigured on a mountain top and I probably never will, but I have experienced God in ways that I can’t explain other than it being God. I have found moments when I have been able to step back from all that is going on in my life and spend moments where I have been able to see things differently, to get a better perspective on both myself and God.
Those moments have come when I have deliberately taken myself away, sometimes physically but most of the time it has been when I have turned the computer off, took the phone off the hook and simply spent time with God ~ reading his word, trying to pray or simply sitting in silence. It is in those times that I begin to see what God wants me to do. Names and faces come to mind, of people I should be praying for or visiting, or simply phoning to see how they are. I am reminded of the things that I need to sort out in my own life ~ righting wrongs that I have done, changing my attitude towards people or things. I come out of these times with a much clearer view of the world and encouraged because I know that God is real, he is with me.
I’d love to say that whole life was like that but it isn’t. I, like most of us, fill my life with ‘stuff’. I choose the wrong priorities; I spend too much time on things that don’t require it and too little time on the things that need more. I find myself meeting myself on the way back and at times I can’t even conceive of having any time left to pray or be quiet.
Fulfilled or full?
Often, instead of having a ‘fulfilled’ life, I have a life that is just ‘full’. But every now and again I make time and in those times I realise that Christianity is just as much about ‘being’ as it is ‘doing’. So often people in church find themselves constantly ‘doing’ something. Their time in church is always taken up with things and at times it can get them down because there doesn’t seem to be a time when they can come and just ‘be’. And we don’t help because we often demand they do those things. And how often do we come to church with a hundred things going around our minds and the first thing we do is to seek out such-a-body and see if they have done something or got something; how often do we come in and instead of seeking time to be quiet and be with the Lord, we try to find out the latest news and have a chat. How often do we come to church to simply ‘be’ in His presence?
I am reminded of some advice given to me years ago by a curate. He said that in life our priorities should be:
The problem is that most of us get No’s 1 and 3 mixed up ~ that because we do so much in church it must be for God. But usually it is for church and we make the mistake of placing church above our family by mistakenly thinking it is what God wants.
I read this quote the other day:
We inherit far more than we ever create. Taken from ‘Taste and See’
Being aware of God, knowing Him and doing His will, isn’t about working our socks off in this building, it is to find time to stop, to simply be in his presence and to hear his words; to get a clearer view of the world. And as the saying goes, we will receive far more than we will ever create. We all have that time if we think about it. Give time this week to stop and simply be.