Saturday, 30 March 2019

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 31 March Lent 4 & Harvest Thanksgiving

Reflection by Rev Dr Simon Rae – Sunday 31 March, 2019 Lent 4, Harvest Thanksgiving
Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, John 4: 31-38

‘Be grateful for the good things the Lord your God has given you and your family, and celebrate together with the Levite and the foreigner who lives among you.’
                                                                                                                   -Deuteronomy 26:11

Deuteronomy 26 embodies a ritual of Thanksgiving for Harvest

But also a Profession or Reaffirmation of Faith – set in the story of Israel’s experience of God.

‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…’  Then the whole history of Israel and God is remembered:
Egypt, Exodus, the Land of Promise,
‘..and now I come to bring the first fruits of the ground, which you O Lord have given me’

Production of Food – is a work and a blessing.

We remember the Jewish benedictions that have become part of the Christian liturgy of
Holy Communion       “Bread, which earth has given and human hands have made”
                                     “Wine, fruit of the vine and work of human hands”

Harvest celebration, in some form or other, was part of almost all ancient civilizations…

But the puzzle for us – in modern cities – is that we hardly ever see the beginning of our food chain (except in our own, or our neighbour’s, garden)

The whole process is out of our hands.   We live from other people’s work – on the land, transport, processing, distribution, marketing.

So, it is appropriate that we have brought some processed and packaged food… along with ‘raw’ food from our gardens.

If we follow the model of Deuteronomy 26 there are three tings to remember:

To be Grateful
To Celebrate
To Share.

To be consciously grateful, aware that in spite of the horror of recent weeks we enjoy a peace, security and freedom to get on with our own business, that is not the experience of many in our world.  To be consciously grateful – is not to take these things for granted.  We have been reminded how fragile they might be. Be we have a hope that some kind of new normal will allow us all to go on with our lives.

To Celebrate is central to Christian and to Jewish spirituality.  But it is a community celebration – together.
Deuteronomy is quite specific ‘celebrate together with the Levite and the Foreigner who lives among you.’  [Both groups were landless, unable to produce food from their own land].  They were to be included  - not left out.

It is difficult to find the right words right now –‘foreigner’ will no longer do.  Nor will the more technical translation ‘the resident alien’.

But the spirit of the instruction is clear:  ‘People whose origin or homeland was somewhere else, who are now living among us, are part of us,- and so are part of our celebration, part of the blessing which was given for all,

They are not ‘other’ – although they may do things differently, according to their custom,
they are not ‘different’  - not ‘they’ or ‘them’ but ‘us’ and ‘we’
And so part of our celebration,

Thirdly To Share:
In ancient times gifts would have been brought to a holy place, blessed and given out by hand to people who gathered expectantly;

Today we have whole networks in place – locally and internationally.  And we have globalized awareness.
As a congregation we support regularly, Presbyterian Support, the Night Shelter, the Food Bank and more – and individually or as families we take up a whole variety of opportunities.
-         To include those around us, and many we will never meet, in our
-         Inclusive Celebration
-         Thankful caring
-         Responsible thanksgiving.

Service of Lament Sunday 24 March 2019, 7 pm

This service sought to find some space for the church community to reflect on the previous week as we struggled with the horror of the March 15 shootings in Christchurch.  We gathered together the words of different people to read and to reflect on.  This is a copy of the service including the readings:


WW 5
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here;
Come bow before him now with reverence and fear:
In him no sin is found, we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around;
he burns with holy fire, with splendour he is crowned:
How awesome is the sight, our radiant king of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place;
He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace,
No work to hard for him.  In faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.
  Music David Evans

We pray tonight for those who have never been served justice, respect, love, acceptance. May we be your servants, Holy God.
…we sing
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet:
master who acts as a slave to them.
       Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.

We pray for the different, for those who tread cautiously in a new land and for those who welcome them in
…we sing
Neighbours are wealthy and poor,
varied in colour and race,
neighbours are near us and far away.
Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.

We pray for our world, for those who spread hatred and fear when we need shalom. May we live in your way, in your love Jesus Christ.
…we sing
These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love; 
all these are neighbours to us and you.
Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.

Words © Tom Colvin  Music Ghana folk song TiS 640

A time of Reflection these readings were put on the walls around the church for people to read and reflect on.  Water and candles were used for remembrance.  Music played and a powerpoint of photos and quotes looped for around twenty mins.  Scarves were there for those who wished to wear them

Reading 1
A Sabbath Prayer

We cannot merely pray to you, O God, to end war;
For we know that You have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace.
Within himself and with his neighbor.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For You have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world,
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God,
to root out prejudice;
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men,
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope,
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease;
For You have already given us great minds
With which to search out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination and will power,
To do instead of just pray,
To become instead of merely to wish."

Jack Riemer Likrat Shabbat

Reading 2
On March 15, 2019, we awoke to news of 49 killed and dozens injured in shooting attacks at mosques in New Zealand, which had long been considered a haven from such violence. After shock and sorrow, our immediate desire was to bring light, love, and healing to these tragic circumstances.

At such times prayers bring consolation and guidance, too. We asked Habib Todd Boerger, a 2018-19 Fellow with the Practicing Democracy Project, if he would compose a dua — a Muslim petitionary prayer — for the victims. He sent the following heartfelt response, for which we are deeply grateful.

And so we pray this news ...
Beloved Lord, Beloved God,
Here we are Lord, before you, with our hearts hurting, as yet more senseless acts of violence have taken the lives of many, and the pain of their loss ripples through their families, loved ones, communities, and across the world.
We beseech You on behalf of those who were killed — mercy, forgiveness, peace.
We beseech You on behalf of their loved ones — patience, strength, healing.
We beseech You on behalf of those who participate actively or inactively in acts of violence — guidance, truth, awareness.

Beloved Allah, all glory and praise to You, You have taught us in Your Holy Qur’an (5:32) that taking the life of one person is like taking the life of all humanity, and that saving the life of one person is like saving the life of all humanity — please give us awareness of the sanctity of life; please give us gratitude for the gift of life; please help us to preserve the gift of life for us all.

Beloved God, please help us to behave with respect, with compassion, with humility, with kindness, with politeness as regards our differences.
Please help us to leave our differences to You for You to decide upon.
Please help us focus on common ground rather than on areas of dissent.
Please help us to remember that we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, that we are all brothers and sisters — that You created each of us, and that You
created our differences so that we might better know ourselves and each other, and thereby grow in knowledge and understanding of You.

Beloved God, You have sent us many messengers with the message of Your Oneness. If we know our respective religions well, we know that there is only one religion — the religion of love and peace and mercy and justice and freedom for all without separation.
We beseech You on behalf of all those who are hurting, on behalf of all those who are oppressed and those who are oppressing, on behalf of all of humanity – to bring us to know our religions well — so that we know this oneness and this love, and so that we live out this love with all of Your creation. Amen.

Reading 3
Pray for the families and friends
of those killed in the attacks
on Christchurch mosques

Pray for the injured,
for their recovery in body, mind and spirit;
for those who treat them
for those who care for them

Pray for police and ambulance staff
who responded so quickly,
as they process what they saw,
and what happened to them,
that they may be able to rest and recover
Pray for medical and nursing staff
those who operated on the injured,
those who care for people recovering,
for strength to keep working and healing rest afterwards

Pray for teachers who sat with the children in their care,
offering them comfort and reassurance,
now processing their own response

Pray for parents comforting their children,
for wisdom in responding to their questions and their fears,
for lots of hugs and time spent together having fun

Pray for the Muslim community in NZ
as they support one another to regain a sense of security,
that they feel supported and valued as New Zealanders who belong here
Pray for the perpetrators of this violence
and all who align with them –
that they may learn to love
and not to hate,
that they may learn to welcome and not to fear

Pray for New Zealand,
as we learn this new truth       about ourselves,
that we reach out to neighbours who are different from us,
responding with care and compassion not with fear and vengeance

Rev Anne Thompson

Reading 4
Presbyterian Church Moderator, Rt Rev Fakaofo Kaio,
adds the voice of the Presbyterian Church of
Aotearoa New Zealand to those railing against
today’s violent shootings in Christchurch.

“We are deeply, deeply shocked. There are really no words to adequately convey the gravity of this situation where people have lost their lives and been injured in such a senseless and violent manner.

“In New Zealand this sort of violence is unheard of,
and we must stand together as a nation against religious violence.

“There is strength the diversity, and many of us will have neighbours who are different to ourselves. We need to learn their names, break bread with them, and work to understand their values and their faith, because this how the hatred and fear that breeds such violence will be eliminated.

“We will be praying for today’s victims and their families, and we will also pray for God’s blessing upon the Christchurch community,
who will be particularly affected by this terrible tragedy.

 “I call on all of our parishes and faith communities, to please have a moment of silence before worship this Sunday.
The love and power of God shall reign through all the world.”

Holy God of mercy and compassion, pour down your embrace
and love on all the world. 
In places of strife, violence, and death.
We pray for the communities in Christchurch.
The victims of this horrific tragedy,
 their families and the whole of New Zealand.
May your grace and power surround us all.
Giving strength and courage in the face of hatred and evil.
In Jesus we pray.

Reading 5
written in the horror of the unfolding story while in lockdown iin Christchurch on the afternoon of Friday 15 March 2019.

There are no words Holy God –
You are a God beyond denominations, beyond faiths,
all encompassing, all loving

Yet I sit here in this lockdown, physically safe but
spiritually shell shocked
For they have shot down the mosque –
the invidious, unknown ‘righteous’ have killed
your children,
sprayed them with bullets and with hatred.

How dare they?  How could they?  Why have they?

The young man in the room with me – a minute from entering the mosque for prayers.
A nice ordinary friend, co-worker, husband almost
dead for his faith……

How have we come to this?  What have we allowed
that we might have stood up against?  Where is your
justice Lord for those mown down in prayer?

As a Christian I feel ill! 
As a companion in faith I feel helpless!

The gnashing of teeth, the rending of cloth,
the lament of the heart – it is not enough

God, help us

            Margaret Garland

Reading 6
The Hospitality of Abraham

Oh God,
The unthinkable happened
one man on a shooting spree
in mosques, in New Zealand, in Christchurch
killing fifty people, 
maiming many 
while they prayed.

But God,
When time has moved on,
and victims have been named and buried
and the time for flowers and vigils will be past,
what then can we do to make a difference? 
What can I do?

When I think about it God,
haven’t you already tried to show us what to do
through the Abraham who unites us all
Jew, Christian and Muslim;
Abraham who entertained angels without knowing it?
You taught us to offer hospitality the stranger
food and shelter and friendship
safety from danger.

What about it, God?
On the one hand 
it seems another of your crazy ideas,
on the other
what have we go to lose?

What might we gain if we learn the names 
of  neighbours and strangers 
and break bread with them
and learn their stories?

God of Abraham and Moses
We pray for your help
to love our neighbour
in a way that we never have before
God of Abraham and Moses
We pray for your help

Tui Bevin~ Lent #2 ~  21 March 2019, after the 15 March Mosque Massacre in Christchurch

Reading 7
The National Church Leaders gathered in Wellington today (Tuesday 19th March 2019) to express their profound horror at the terrible violence towards Muslim people in Christchurch mosques last Friday. We are deeply saddened by these tragic events and we strongly condemn these acts of racial hatred and murder. We feel very deeply for our fellow New Zealand faith community, which was so cruelly attacked as worshippers peacefully gathered for prayer.
We extend our prayerful and heartfelt sympathy to the Muslim community here in New Zealand, and around the world. The whole Christian church community in New Zealand is praying for the Muslim community: praying for the healing of the wounded, comfort for the bereaved, and for God’s peace upon all who have been traumatised.
At this time of deep shock, grief, and anxiety, we ask and pray for all New Zealanders to stand united, to have great love and compassion, and to show unfailing respect and kindness for all people who live in this society of Aotearoa New Zealand, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. We believe there is absolutely no room for racial hatred in our land, and we are determined that we must stand together as one people, united as human beings created by God, and as fellow New Zealanders. May goodness overcome evil, and peace and goodwill prevail.

Litany of Commitment to peace:
For God’s shalom, harmony, wholeness, completion, fulfilment,
we give ourselves to God
For the hard work of wrestling peace from chaos, of standing before the violence, for being makers of peace in times of trouble,
we give ourselves to God
For peace with who we are, peace with who we are not, peace with our loss and peace with our hope
we give ourselves to God
Giving ourselves to praying for the other, living for the other, working for the sake of the other
we give ourselves to God
Declaring this house to be a house of peace,
declaring ourselves to be a people of peace,
we give ourselves to God
We make this commitment in the name of the Prince of Peace. 

WW no 2: 2
E te Atua aroha mai,
E te Atua aroha mai,
E te Atua aroha mai,
Ake ake tonu e, ake ake tonu e.

E te Atua manaaki mai,
E te Atua manaaki mai,
E te Atua manaaki mai,
Ake ake tonu e, ake ake tonu e.

E te Atua awhina mai,
E te Atua awhina mai,
E te Atua awhina mai,
Ake ake tonu e, ake ake tonu e.

O God love us – forever and ever
O God bless us – forever and ever
O God help us – forever and ever

Arr. Nicola & Guy Jansen, Tune Kum By Ya  AA 31

Litany of love
Beloved; let us love another ‐ because love is from God.
Lest the sufferer feel that no one cares, let us love one another.
Lest  we  allow  the  violence  to  define  who  we  are,  let  us  love  one  another.
Lest we become what we hate, let us love one another.
Lest  the  redeeming  work  of  God  not  be  done,  let  us 
love one  another.
Lest God fade from our landscape, let us love one another.

Sending out
Go in the blessing of God, knowing the grace of our Lord
WW 32
May the mystery of God enfold us,
may the wisdom of God uphold us,
may the fragrance of God be around us,
may the brightness of God surround us.

May the wonder of God renew us,
may the loving of God flow through us,
may the peace of God deeply move us,
may the moving of God bring us peace.
Words Joy Cowley Music Ian Render

We go when we are ready…..

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 10 March, 2019 Lent 1

Readings:  Psalm 91:1-4, 11-12   Deuteronomy 26:1-11   Luke 4:1-13

We pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

Today our three readings from the bible: the psalm, from Deuteronomy and from Luke – all of them speak of our response to the grace of God in our lives – the sense of belonging, of power to transform, the gift of faith and the strength to endure.  They encourage us to celebrate God with us – to respond with delight at the gift of a faithful and loving God.

At the end of the reading from Deuteronomy, we have these words:   Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.’[1]

This concludes a passage which tells the people of the exodus that they are to celebrate God’s abundance to them – as wandering Arameans often confused in their direction, as aliens in a strange land, as an oppressed people and as a minority people they are to give praise for God’s abundance of blessing to them – for God’s provision never abandons us on the journey and is always bountiful.  And so they are to give thanks and celebrate the faithfulness of God – by remembering all that God has been to the people of Israel.

Here at the beginning of Lent before we get into reflecting on our response to God’s grace, before we try and figure out a way we can be better Christians, pre-empting any practice of self-restraint or spiritual discipline, before all of this we celebrate and praise the presence of God in this world, in the lives of the people of God throughout time and in us.
So you could say that Lent begins with singing, with offering praise to God, confessing our faith by confessing that we are loved, giving thanks for the extravagant, unwarranted, ever-surprising self-giving of God – to the people of the exodus and to us.

Strange that the lectionary should then couple this reading with that of Jesus’ temptations is it not?  It can be hard to find celebration in the midst of temptations in the desert – it seems such a brutal story, a story of hardship and battle, victory and defeat. 

I love the image that Gregor has used on the front of the service sheet – to me it evokes the isolation, the danger, the harshness of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.  You can see that some gigantic struggle has taken place – exhaustion, barely surviving maybe.
Yet when I look more closely, there is also a sense of rest, of peace and calmness, of a presence that is immovable, rock solid despite the deeply disturbing things that are going on around him.  Is the scorpion threat or friend, source of reflection or too tired to respond?

Am I reading too much into it – I don’t think so – you may see different things but whatever is found, I believe it offers an insight that goes beyond the stark conversation of Jesus with the Devil.  

Temptations are so called because, despite ourselves trying not to, we give them a moment’s consideration.  Is that a robust definition?  If they don’t appeal even slightly to us, there is every chance that we don’t recognise them as temptations.   So they are very personal – and Satan we hear was adept at choosing both the moment and the content.
Led into the desert full of the Holy Spirit, no food for forty days, the devil comes to play with Jesus mind.  And as for the temptations themselves – so clever – to feed the hungry, to rule the world with justice and to show the world how much God loves him by putting that love to the test.  A subtle change of positioning  - loosen the ties a bit – make some of his own decisions, do things his way in his own time.  Take the glory on himself. 

That was the struggle that Jesus engaged in, and emerged from with, we might say, his integrity intact.  Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and made strong through the unfailing love of his Father that surrounded him he emerged we won’t say unscathed but we can say victorious.
But it is more than that, isn’t it?   For Jesus does do just these things - but in God’s time and to God’s purpose – Jesus does feed the hungry, does proclaim justice and peace, does go to the cross in the confidence that God’s will for life will take precedence over the world’s decision to execute him.  One could say ‘Game, set and match to Jesus!’

But the other thing that this narrative does for us is actually to give us cause for celebration, for praising God for in it we can see that Jesus in all his humanness, in all his spiritual struggles and physical hardship, holding strong in his trust that God’s gracious love will see him through. 

This reading also encourages us to recognise when a bit of desert dust is clouding our relationship with God, to be alert to the times when our own egos or agendas intrude, drawing us into times of clever temptation – things where there might be only a small shift away from faithful living, a slight blurring of the clarity and integrity and courage that it takes to be the faithful people of God. 

We too are invited into a profound belief that in all we go through we are held in God’s gracious love as we do our best to respond with integrity.  This is a real gift for us as we struggle to be the best we can be, as we deal with the temptations that are often ours alone to confront, as we dig deep into our hearts, searching for honest responses to troubling times.

We can be sure these times of struggle, temptation, blurred vision are not going to go away – remember that in the reading the devil departed from him until an opportune time -  and in fact dare we say that we are glad that they are there.  And we give thanks to Jesus for showing us the way through the challenges to our faith and that we can emerge stronger for the experience. He went into desert full of the Holy Spirit and would not be swayed by worldly temptations.
So it is not that we avoid these places but that we stand strong in our belief that God is in-dwelling in them, Jesus teaching and living is showing us the way and the Spirit is walking with us – in all these times. 

I want to finish with a piece of writing be Carolyn Smyth[2]
It reminds us, at this Lenten time of reflection,  that without lament there is no joy, without the cradle there is no cross, without struggle there is no arriving, without temptation in the desert times, there is no chance of tempering the steel of who we are in Christ.

Carolyn says it so well;  

Arise within me, Holy mystery, Holy friend

keep danger near enough for the summoning of protection
keep doubt strong enough for the deepening of trust
keep despair near enough for the stirring of hope
keep darkness strong enough for the glimmering of light
keep hostility near enough for the sustaining of peace
keep fear strong enough for the arousing of love
keep greed near enough for the lavishing of generosity
keep uncertainty strong enough for the bolstering of courage
keep surprise near enough for the gifting of grace
keep chaos strong enough for the flowering of creativity
keep divinity near enough for the perfecting of humanity

Arise within me, Holy mystery, take me to hallowed ground.

Margaret Garland

[1] Deuteronomy 26: 11  NRSV
[2] in “Bare Feed and Buttercups: Resources for Ordinary Time” edited by Ruth Burgess, published 2008 Wild Goose Publications

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 3 March 2019 Transfiguration Sunday

Readings:  Psalm 99   Luke 9:28-43a

We pray; May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, o God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen

How good Lord to be here!
Your glory fills the night:
your face and garments, like the sun,
shine with unborrowed light.

How good, Lord, to be here,
your beauty to behold,
where Moses and Elijah stand,
your messengers of old.

How good Lord to be here!  Today, transfiguration Sunday, we take some time to affirm that it is good to be here, to rest in that mountain top moment, to recognise Christ in all his unexpected glory before God. 
And I use unexpected in this sense:  that the disciples were not ready for this ‘thing’ that happened to Jesus on the mountain top. They were adjusting to his unexpected ways right enough – his encounters with the marginal, his upside down way of looking at the world, his challenge of Hebrew law and priesthood……   But this was right out there: a seeming transformation of the figure of Jesus, Moses and Elijah turning up, God’s voice in the cloud (and it appeared to be directed to them- ‘listen to him’). Small wonder they stumbled and fumbled their way through the encounter in a way that I am sure many of us can identify with.  Those cringe moments when we look back and wonder how we could have been so crass. It was most certainly unexpected, terrifying even – but how good to be there – to see God’s glory shining through this man called Jesus.

Some of you here have climbed mountains – others of us have climbed less difficult hills but still understand that moment of reaching the top – usually completely out of breath, often having wanted to give up several times on the way, reluctant to leave once we were there because it took a great effort and the sense of arrival, the vista, the feel of being a little closer to heaven takes root in your heart - and you don’t want to lose it – ever!

I remember one such climb I made in Scotland – up Schiehallion in Perthshire – called a Monroe because it is over 3,000 ft – I was young but not particularly fit and managed to strain a muscle on the way up which got progressively worse.   In the end I got this close to the top but not quite – didn’t stop me buying the teeshirt two years ago that said I climbed Schiehallion!
But it was an awesome climb and the sense of simply being on that mountain has stayed with me forever.  How good it was to be there!

There is a story UK writer Tom Gordon tells of a bunch of blokes in the pub one night who decided that it would be great to do something to raise money for charity – and you guessed it – they decided to climb a mountain; Ben Nevis no less.  One of them raised quite a lot of money – perhaps because people had little faith that he would even get from the car to the start of the track, he was so unfit and totally unprepared.  They were wrong – he made it part of the way up with a lot of help from his friends – but in the end they left him and his moaning to make his own way to the top.  About to go back, having given up, thinking about whether he should hand back the money or pretend he had made it to the top – a young woman who had been up and down the mountain many times stopped to encourage him – and told he was just 10 mins from the top, then walked beside him.  He arrived on this mountain top to much back slapping and accolade.  How good it was to be there!  And he, like the disciples, didn’t want to go down – he wanted to savour the moment, the sense of achievement.  But again the young woman had the right words: ‘It’s hard to leave once you’ve made it….but we’ll have to get going…the weather will close in shortly. ….but I’ll tell you this.  You will never, ever forget today….. never lose this success, no matter what happens.’  It will always have been good to be here!

I wonder how that time on the mountain top with Jesus transformed the lives of Peter, John and James in the days and years to come.  We can only imagine why they kept silent on what they had seen – maybe struck speechless from awe and wonder, unable to process it, or perhaps unsure that they had the words to describe this moment or afraid that people would label them crazies?  Whatever, one thing we can be pretty sure of - life would never be quite the same again.

For that experience of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was also the transformation of the lives of the disciples - one that was received on the mountain but played out on the plain below.  They had seen Jesus in a different light – and were themselves able to glimpse the unimagined possibility of the mystery and power and presence of God to change this world through this man Jesus.
It made a difference to what they believed was possible, it expanded Peter and James and John’s thinking into visions of unlimited hope for life at ground level. It may not have taken hold immediately but it was a significant place on their journey of faith. For all their continuing muckups and misunderstandings, failures to grasp truths and continuing bullheadedness, they understood beyond a doubt that this man was who they were to be with, to follow -  and his words were the ones they needed to listen to.
So, silent they may have been, but how good it was to be there.

But, like the blueprint for life itself, the reality of the plain did hit almost immediately.  Failure to heal, distraught parents, Jesus to the rescue.
Life on the plain is messy – it’s called reality.  It involves failure and suffering, emotion and uncertainty, blinding pain as well as joy.  When we try to fix things, they go awry. When we are tired, we find ourselves scrabbling for direction.  When we are happy we find others who do their best to bring us down.
And it seems to me that the question we ask of ourselves, in the midst of the reality of daily life, where do we hold the place of transfiguration, of the realisation of the glory and light and hope of Jesus Christ, that time or times when we know beyond a doubt, with a dumbstruck awe, the reality of God in our lives?

Or to put it another way – are we able to say; it is good to be here, not just on the mountain top but also on the plain?  It is good to be part of this community of faith.  It is good to be shaken and stirred, uncertain and expectant.  It is good to know that even in our darkest moments, the glory that is God shines for us. It is good that we learn and grow in faith as the people of God.  It is good that together we gather around the table, sharing in the feast that Jesus invites us to – no matter who or where we are – we are welcomed into the oneness of Christ Jesus.

We pray: Lord, it is good to be here.  Here where we are blinded by your revelation, your truth, your glory.  Here where, through new eyes, new understandings we discover a new reality, the place where all things are possible when we listen to the one who was transfigured on the mountain,  and who changes our lives forever because we too have seen his glory.  In the name of the resurrected Christ we pray.

Margaret Garland