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News -> Pastor's Column Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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By Jonathan Riedel,
Newaygo United Church of Christ.

“Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John and brought to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone.  He was transformed in front of them and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white.”  Mark 9:1-3 CEB

As the son of a geologist, I spent some of my childhood among piles of rocks.  Most rocks, at first glance, are nondescript.  Grays blend into browns, which in turn blend into blacks.  An untrained eye sees little to inspire a bored hand to reach down to pick up a stepped over stone.  That is, however, the unfortunate consequence of untrained eyes.  You miss what you might see if you clear away the dirt and chip away a gray crust.   A vein of greened copper.  A twinkle of gold among the pebbles.  Banded agates among the lake-turned rubble.  All of these take eyes that know how to look.

One of my favorite exhibits at any geological museum is the fluorescent or luminescent minerals.  These minerals, when exposed to ultraviolet light, glow in brilliant pinks, purples, blues, oranges, and greens.  In ordinary light, they remain pale yellows, pinks, and whites.  This is where having the right tools and the right knowledge to use those tools well helps.  With both, we can see the more, shall we say, colorful nature of scapolite, dolomite, and calcite, among others. 

In many Christian churches, as we prepare for Lent (our journey with Jesus to his Crucifixion-his suffering and death on the Cross-and his Resurrection-God’s raising him from death), we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday.   This day commemorates the time that Jesus three of his most trusted disciples up on a high mountain near the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi to pray.  While they were in the midst of prayer, Jesus began to glow as though he had been struck by ultraviolet light.  His clothing became shockingly white. As if this were not enough, the spirits of Elijah, Israel’s greatest prophet, and Moses, Israel’s lawgiver, appeared and engaged Jesus in deep conversation.   The disciples were overwhelmed and huddled together in fear.  When Peter recovered what wits he had, he babbled something about needing to build some kind of meeting area fitting for this esteem assemblage.  Then God showed up and told Peter, essentially, to shut up and listen to Jesus.  Because Jesus has something truly God-inspired to say.  Something true and good to listen to.  Some words that transforming and healing. Some sign that God is really among us. And here, in startling light, is something transfigured to remind us of all that God is.

Sometimes we all need that kind of reminding.  I remember once going to take a shower in a campground somewhere out West.  My day had not gone particularly well and I was not in a good mood.  I do not enjoy a good depression so the fact that my mind matched the glowering storm clouds looming above me was not giving me any cause for uplift.  As I hurried to the shower, I worried momentarily about the dangers of soaking in hot water as a storm raged overhead.   Electrocution would be the perfect ending to a crappy day.  But I decided I didn’t care enough to worry anymore.   I just wanted to be warm and then tucked into my sleeping bag.

I could hear thunder thrumming in my ears as I dried myself off and gathered my belongings.  I stepped out of the door of the bathhouse and glanced around to see if it was raining.  The thunderheads were breaking over some distant trees as the sun went skittering through a light sprinkling.  A mere fifteen feet from, beside a sloping cottonwood tree, was the end of wide rainbow, its colors sharp and almost reachable.  It grew only brighter as I began my walk back to the camper. The colors intensified into a

Luxuriant glow as I almost walked through its strands.  As I studied its beauty, I no longer felt sad and worried.   Instead I felt touched by a tendril of God’s shivering light-a reminder that even in the gloom there is still room for light.  

Transfiguration Sunday does much the same.  It stands there to remind us that even in the pitch-black of human frailty and culpability, even in the worst we can throw at the world and that the world can throw at us, even as walk, with Jesus, down the harrowing road to the Cross, there is still room for light, the light of God’s overwhelming and glowing love.








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