last epiphany a: shining like fire

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Gospels / Lectionary / New Testament

stairwell at The Cloisters After a person is baptized in an Episcopal Church, there is a prayer said for the newly baptized, which concludes like this:

“Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.”

The gift of joy and wonder in all your works.

We’ve lost many things over the years. Joy and wonder are two of them.

It’s just so hard to conjure up wonder. As a parent, one of the parental goals I have for myself is to raise two girls with a sense of wonder. So, I take them to museums and cathedrals, and point out the intricacies and nuances of what they’re seeing. When I speak of God to them, I not only tell them that Jesus is their friend and with them all the time (which is good), but also that he made the sun, the moon and the stars. And manatee. And flamingos. And Cheetos.

OK, I definitely leave out the Cheetos…

As a priest, I try and conjure up for the parish I serve similar awe of the power of God, the minute and amazing details of the scriptures, and the movement of the Holy Spirit through the history of humanity and the Church.

Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t.

I’ve had too many experiences of taking youth into a grand nave of a wondrous, storied, cathedral or abbey… only to find them more interested in looking at their shoes and incoming text messages.

Those moments hurt my heart.

We had a clergy day a few weeks back with Mike Gecan, the author of “Going Public.” He talked about going into his child’s Kindergarten class and seeing a bulletin board illustrating what the students wanted to learn in school that year. Most of the statements were like, “behave,” “learn to sit still,” “follow the rules,” “listen to the teacher better.”

One child said “I want to know why the ocean shines like fire.”

Holy smoke.

I mean HOLY smoke!

Now that the kids mentions it… I want to know why the ocean shines like fire too.

There’s a kid who has the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works.

We can say a lot about the Tranfiguration. And given it’s prevalent use in the lectionary from year to year, we get to say a lot about it.

But, if there’s ever a “WOW” moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, this is it. Jesus took his three chosen disciples up on a mountain to do many things.

One of them, was to blow their sandals off.

And, whatever shortcomings they have, and however paltry Peter’s words are, they at least do the appropriate thing and fall on their faces before the Presence of the Glory of God and His Son.

This is an intimate encounter, for only a few, on an un-named mountaintop. And so, I have to believe that this isn’t just a historical tale of one of Jesus’ afternoon excursions, but is a model of Christian life.

We are to look around and search for those places and events where God knocks our socks off. And we’re to fully soak in the WOW of the moment. And maybe even fall on our faces.

It reminds us of God’s power and glory and splendor. And it reminds us of our appropriate, faithful, response: worship.

And, once we experience wonder – and help others do the same – maybe we can put the incoming-text-message-machines down… and experience joy too.

Why does Jesus shine like fire? Let’s see for ourselves, and invite others along.

When is the last time you let God blow your socks off? How do you encourage wonder among the churches you serve?