Some of you may have seen the movie: Chocolat starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, & the always marvelous Dame Judi Dench. It’s a great movie for Lent!
The story takes place in a small town in Post WWII France where into a very conservative & self-satisfied town comes a strange Bohemian woman & her young daughter to open a chocolate shop.
The fact that the child has no father & the shop opens at the beginning of Lent, sends some of the townspeople into a tizzy—
- in particular the mayor who is like a human version of Sam the Eagle from the "Muppet Show"--both in looks & attitude.
Now, some might watch this film & assume it is an attack on religion—
However, what it’s capturing is the tension between
those who have a dogmatic devotion to rules & those who see Christianity more as a call foracceptance, compassion & renewal
We began listening to the text from the Book of Genesis & as we hear this, we hear the story of Abraham walking w/God & it reminds us of God walking w/Adam & Eve in the cool of the evening in the garden.
Here is God walking w/Abraham & then inviting Abraham to know that God is pleased w/him & that God will give to him & his descendants this incredible land.
That God wants to do something for him, God wants to give him something…. Often we make it about us doing something for God!
And of course, Abraham scratches his head & says, Well, how is this to be?
And God doesn’t answer, all God says is offer me a sacrifice, i.e., walk closer!
And with Abraham & Sarah, the first immigrants, God summons us into the beauty that envelops us… “Look up at the stars,” that we are star dust /all people are star dust!
We are all wonderfully made!
Then we come to Paul's letter to the Philippians,
And this is a wonderful letter & we have this incredible beginning; Be imitators of me! Now, sometimes you want to scratch your head & say, really Paul, be imitators of me, how big is your ego?
But at the same time, what is it we know about Paul?
Well, he was the apostle to the Gentiles! What else do we know of Paul?
He was open to coming to know God in new ways
-to welcoming the outsiders,
-to welcoming those who in the past would have been so outrageously pushed out.
And yet here he is: Be imitators of me in your… hospitality.
Be imitators of me in welcoming others into this grace & gift that is God.
Then we come to the gospel text & we have Jesus leading 3 of his disciples up to a high mountain,
-and a mountain is a privileged place where revelation happens – think of Moses…
-think of Jesus going up the mountain for his Sermon on the Mount!
So something important, something central and deep…is going to happen…
And he prays & his clothes became dazzling white.
Now, as we've come to understand the science of color, we know that in fact “white” is putting together all colors & it comes through to us as this color that is almost no color, it's light…. white… itself.
But the key image is Jesus standing in the Middle,
-and on one side he has Moses who is the first of the leaders of Israel,
-on the other side he has Elijah, who is the archetypal Jewish prophet.
Now in simple form, Moses is a symbol of law and order;
-This is what we gotta do. He brings down the 10 commandments.
Elijah, like all of the prophets, are the “critics” of that order, saying,
-you know it isn't always perfect. It doesn't always work. It isn't always right.
Now… when you can blend those 2 together in faithful harmony:
-order w/ disorder, / the truth… with critique of the truth, //
-you tend to create rather wise people, & that is where we what to go…
~we hold onto what is good & essential from the tradition, from the past, from the scriptures, but thenby the middle of life,
you should get wise enough to recognize, in all honesty, it doesn't always work.
It doesn’t // even with the best of intentions….
I’ll bet some of you in this room are in a second marriage.
Does that mean you are bad people? I don't think so…
But it's a little bit of “dis-order”. // so
We really want to hold onto the order/the ideal of the indissolubility of marriage & yet be humble & honest enough to say, it doesn't always work.
And when you can do both with grace & love & freedom,
-not throwing out Moses, not throwing out Elijah, you're usually a wise person.
BUT it takes half of your life to get there.
Then… poor Peter. …You know, Peter always does it wrong.
The first thing he says is usually incorrect. It's innocent. It's sincere.
Strange that we made him into the 1st Pope because he was anything but infallible.
But right away he wants to control the Holy…
And you don’t control the Holy, you respond to it!
Right away what Jesus has put together into one, he wants to divide into 3.
Let's build 3 tents ---That's the way the mind works.
We like to take… sides. We like to choose.. positions.
*We don't know how to hold reality & mystery together…
order with disorder / law with critique of law.
In fact, I would say very few people know how to do this!
Think about it -
Historically, the Republican Party was the party of Law and order, and historically the Democrats were the party of critique and reform.
Now next time you go to your cocktail party, I want you to say, “Well, you Republicans are half wrong & you Democrats are half wrong. You got to put the two together.” But very few people know how to do that!!!
Mostly because it’s not the truth we love, it’s you love your own opinion!
So that's why Jesus stands in the middle /in dazzling white, the synthesis of the other two.
And then God affirms this & says This is my Son. Listen to him.
Then the sad last word. They fell silent. Why?
I think because wisdom takes a long time to gestate, to grow, to mature,
-to know what you really do know,
-to know what you really do believe….
- a knee-jerk answer is hardly ever a good answer.
When people yell at one another, that's off the top of their head & off the top of their heart.
You gotta go deeper into your mind & deeper into your heart, where you find “both and” thinking / yes and yes.
When you can live with that kind of wisdom, I think you'll be like Christ.
Standing in the middle, very often loved by neither side.
Brothers & sisters, the transfiguration is not a one-time spectacular special effect.
It’s a glimpse of heaven that comes when we least expect it…
-on the spot where we are & not the place where we want to be…
-often through the kinds of people we would never have imagined!
In times of disorder as well as order….
So, look for the transfiguration’s brilliance…even in this time of war!
Look for it in the people who are providing housing for refugees & in the people leaving baby carriages at the train station so that people have some place to put their child or their goods as they're trying to find someplace because they cannot be at home anymore.
So we continue this Lenten journey looking for the glory of God revealing itself to us in every dimension of who we are, and where we are - calling us beyond ourselves to transformation & life, and it might even begin w/a box of chocolates.