March 5, 2000
What a morning for imagery!
Chariots of Fire came from God to usher the prophet Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind as his friend and protege, Elisha watched.
The images of the Hebrew scripture, the law and the prophets, are vivid and fiery images, but in today's reading from the Gospel the image of Jesus Christ is as the sun is to the moon and the stars. When the sun has risen in the sky the stars cannot be seen and the moon,if it appears at all, is a pale and milky shadow.
In this analogy the history of God's relationship with human beings is recounted. The early times of the covenant were marked by the law. The five books of the Pentateuch attributed to Moses list the Ten Commandments and hundreds of other rules for those who would live the holy and pure life prescribed by God. Later the relationship was marked by prophets such as Elijah. These people spoke the word of God to God's people. The final phase of God's relationship with the people is marked as beginning with the Word which dwelled with God before the earth was created and through which the earth was created and who came to live among the people in the person of Jesus. This phase of God's relationship with life on earth is marked by God becoming life on earth. In this way we arrive at the image in today's Gospel reading of Jesus shining as bright as the sun - brighter than any earthly process could achieve. He is seen in conversation with the exemplars of the law and of the prophets. This is because the law and the words of the prophets were the necessary steps leading to the final step of Jesus.
Jesus is the Word made flesh. But the story does not end there. Jesus life was a demonstration of the way in which all of us may embody the energy of Christ. An old hymn says, "We have come at Christ's own bidding to this high and holy place, where we wait with hope and longing for some token of God's grace." But that isn't the whole story either.
Peter offers in the reading to stay on that high and holy place and build a shrine. There he would have hunkered down and worshipped Jesus in all his glory along with Elijah and Moses. But that isn't the whole story either. As soon as Peter makes his offer the vision is obscured by a cloud and the voice of God is heard proclaiming, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Then as they looked on the whole vision disappeared and they were left with only their friend, Jesus.
Jesus turned back into a man and the four companions walked back down the mountain. What had changed? From this point on they were aware that Jesus life marked the beginning of a new age, the age of God living with humans and within humans and the rest of creation.
Two weeks ago I talked about how if people are burned out they must be operating on their own finite supply of energy. Today's reading in which Jesus turns from a man to God and back again shows that we can similarly access the Christ energy at the center of creation and use it to power our lives. On beyond living in awe of the vision of Jesus the Christ and on beyond faithfully worshipping Him we are called to embody the energy of Christ in our daily lives. I told you that if you learned to do this you would never be burned out.
Here is a step by step method for accessing the glory of Jesus Christ in working through your daily life - Emptiness, Surrender and Extension.
Listen to the words of William Breault a Jesuit poet:
A Hollowed Space to Be Filled
A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can't be filled again except emptying it out.
In order to fill anything there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can't receive.
This is especially true of God's word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it, emptied of the false self and its endless demands.
When Christ came, there was no room in the inn.
It was full. The inn is a symbol of the heart.
God's word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.
The first step in the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous and all the other recovery groups is to admit that you are powerless. It is a paradox worth embracing that one never feels such power as after one has admitted that one is powerless to control the events and demons of one's own life. In surrender we ask for Christ to enter our lives and fill us up full. Do we find ourselves the slaves of addictions such as alcohol, entertainment, or consumerism? Is the weight of a declining church to much to bear. Begin today by admitting that you are powerless before the demons of this world and ask for God to fill you up with the energy of Christ. You will feel that energy flooding into your hollow space in a physical and dynamic way.
Once the Holy Spirit has filled us to overflowing. Once our cup is brimming with the golden nectar of Christ's energy. The next step is to extend from that energy to the world. Are you called to head up a committee or teach the children in Sunday School? Extend to the task from the heart of Christ's energy within you and you will marvel at the results.
Today we embody the Christ energy introduced through Jesus in all of the Gospels but especially in this reading from Mark.
The apostle Paul writes to the people of Corinth:
For it is the God who said: Let light shine out of the darkness," who shone in our hearts to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray, Bright and Shining God, you created us in your image and reminded us today of that glorious vision in the image of Jesus on the mountaintop. We admit that we have not always lived up to the fullness and glory of your vision. We further admit that we, ourselves, are powerless to overcome the obstacles in our personal and collective lives. Fill our emptiness today, God that we might extend to the tasks we are called to and bring more glory to your already glorious name. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ who has shown us the way. Amen