between darkness and light


(sunset at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

****Firstly, may our hearts and prayers be with the students, parents, faculty, staff
and entire community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward Co. Florida.
Our hearts break for those families whose lives will never be the same.

Secondly, I read an updated post offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Tuesday
that he was going in for emergency surgery Wednesday due to a detached retina—
this being the second and unforeseen such surgery. He asked for our prayers…
and pray we shall.

With this past Sunday marking the Christian observation of the Transfiguration, the
event in which Jesus is “transfigured” before his friends who had accompanied him to a
mountain to pray…one might find that such an event is perhaps odd fitting falling on
Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent…
because here we have a significant moment
of light versus a significant time of difficulty and darkness.

As this seems to be one more example of the juxtaposition of our faith as Christians…
Darkness versus Light….Light versus Darkness.

Bishop Ashenden notes this event in his Sunday homily taking place on the last Sunday
before Lent.
He opens his homily with the reading from Mark regarding the event we Christians
know as the Transfiguration of our Lord.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a
high mountain, where they were all alone.
There he was transfigured before them.
His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.
Let us put up three shelters (some say altars)—one for you, one for Moses and
one for Elijah.”
(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain,
Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man
had risen from the dead.
They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things.
Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished,
just as it is written about him.”

Mark 9:2-11

I personally have always found the timing, or rather revealing, of Jesus’ Transfiguration
being remembered on the Sunday before Lent as a bit odd as it seems somewhat out of sync.
Here we have the Church calendar making its way toward Ash Wednesday and the
beginning of Lent, a time of solemness and yet we are given a story of Light and Glory.

Lent is a hard time for Christians–it is a 40 day lead up to the walking of the Via Dolorosa–
or the Way of Sorrows…
There is such a seriousness and heaviness and yet here we have a moment of shared and
exposed Glory with the marking of Blinding Light.

And of course, the voice of God telling those disciples present that
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”

I can only imagine how those three disciples must have felt.
First and suddenly, Jesus is consumed by blinding light.
Then just as suddenly they are seeing men that needed no introduction or explanation
as to who they were, the disciples just seem to know…
the prophet Elijah (who according to Wikipedia as in The Book of Malachi prophesies Elijah’s
return “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD”,
making him a harbinger of the Messiah and of the eschaton in
various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible) and also Moses,
the man chosen by God to continue the lineage of mankind and all of Creation
following the near world-ending flood.

Pretty mind-blowing and unbelievable stuff.

And yet they seem to take it all in stride.

That’s the thing about the Bible—we are given specifics with very little in the way
of emotions.
“so afraid”, “trembling”, “sorrow”… descriptive words but not much in the way of
“hey!!! What just happened here??!!”

Yet Bishop Ashenden reminds us that their breath, that of Peter, James, and John,
must have been taken away by Glory…

For these three disciples suddenly found themselves out of the concept of both
space and time.

Both being humanly grounding concepts simply disappearing in the blink of an eye.

We aren’t told of the duration of this event—and I would suspect,
much like a dream that seems to last an entire night yet in actuality is but a minute
or so at best, this moment of absence yet consumingness must also be brief.

The good bishop states that time and space…of which is infused with Glory, simply melts…
Just as it does so later for both Paul and Stephen…
Just as we know that they, and eventually us, must melt ourselves in order to
truly see this Spiritual reality.
Because we can not be of either space nor time in order to be in the presence of God—
because God is not and cannot be, contained by either.

And so the Transfiguration is our moment when both space and time melt away, affording us
a Light cast just before we enter into the darkness.

For “Hope and the promise of Glory–pierces the darkness.
And we need this encouragement found in Christ’s transfiguration to feel the encouragement
in our perseverance through our own Via Dolorosa.

For we live our earthly lives caught up in darkness…
The recent shooting yesterday at the high school in Florida startingly jerks us back
to the knowledge that we live in a fallen world caught in the power play of
Light and Darkness.

As we will soon one day hear those long-awaited words…
“Behold I am with you always—until the end of time…

When both space and time and even ourselves will melt away and
we will find ourselves in the Light.

And the sheep were silent…

“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision.
It is a silent acquiescence to evil.
The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction,
while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

DSCN0884
(a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where does one begin…
Where does one look when attempting to sort it all out?
From whence has it come?
What was the root cause?
What was the catalyst?
How did it ever come to this?

Standing in the center of the raging maelstrom
Silent and dumbfounded…
Only a remaining handful are left to sort it out.

As the majority silently chooses to ignore it…

We choose to turn our heads.
We refuse to call truth by its name.
While hoping it all just goes away.

We don’t want to get labeled.
We don’t want to lose our businesses, our jobs, our positions.
We don’t want to be taken to court.
We don’t want to be disliked, unliked or disconnected.
We don’t want to be shamed…

All the while we are being told we’d best accept things or otherwise shut-up.
We are told to get on board or get out.
We are vilified,
We are hated
We are deemed ignorant.
We are considered backwards.
We are called all manner of vile names
We are stalked by the shadows…

That is unless we recant, we back down, we reconsider,
we change our minds, we accept the once unacceptable…
as the bitter taste is no less palatable, yet we swallow for survival.

And it is because of one thing and one thing only…
We carry the name Christian or Jew.
We support the cross, we support Israel and we hold the word of God as just that…
The Truth.

Yet even under that banner there are those who toil
at rewriting and altering ancient words and law in order to
“modernize” them.
“God didn’t mean that, He actually meant this instead….”
As we don’t like thinking about sin and Hell, so let’s
just throw the blanket out covering everyone…as in
it is all indeed good…because we are all about feeling good.

We stand before the manger feeling all warm and fuzzy,
as we look upon that peaceful nurturing scene of Mother and Child…
All the while we throw up our Christmas trees as the media screams at us,
telling us what we must have and actually need under those trees
in order to be forever happy…
never mind what we really need or want….

…simply to love and be loved….
as in forever…

We want our God to be all loving, all caring, all good, all giving
all about us….
He loves everyone no matter what, right?
He tolerates everything right?
He accepts us no matter what right?

Cause if that’s not right, we don’t want Him.

Cause and effect.

Have we forgotten?

For every cause, there is an opposite reaction or effect.
Up, down
push, pull
lift, drop,
climb, fall….

Yet we decide that the law of physics will not apply to us.

We will live as we choose, with a God who we demand will
abide by our choices and our will…or else…
We will simply rewrite Him…

…or deem Him ill suited, outdated, or better yet…
the product of mere myths…

We deem marriage is not just between man and woman.
We decide boys can be girls and girls can be boys.
There is no separation, no division, no balance…
We don’t like results so we kick and scream until we get the results we like.
We don’t like the flag so we burn it.,
We don’t like religion so we ignore it,
We don’t like those over there cause
we are paranoid and think they don’t like us over here….

We are so busy being us and loving us…as in me, myself and I…
that we are failing to see what is happening all around us.

We are so afraid of offending anyone and everyone that we can’t call terrorists what they are.
We can’t admit that radical Islam wants to annihilate us so we instead invite
them to all come live with us.
We bend everything about us…
until we break, all in the name of acceptance and equality.

And yet we still just don’t get it.
We can’t see it.
We don’t want to admit it….
We’d rather just stare at the crib feeling all warm and fuzzy…
as we forget that the road to Bethlehem, and it’s inviting manger, leads directly
to the Via Dolorosa…

Cause and effect.

Birth and death
Life or not…

If we claim to be Christian or Jew.
If we believe in morality as a guiding principle.
If we believe in cause and effect
If we believe that God is God and we are not…

Now is our moment to be silent no more….

DSCN0866
(a sheep being sheared at a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Acts 18:9-10