Tattooed Sleeves

Transfiguration B 2015, St. Clement’s
Scripture appointed for today may be found here 

You may be amazed to learn, that there are times when I wish that I could choose to stay home on Sunday morning, or better yet, go to brunch or a coffee shop to read the paper.  But, for better or for worse, the choice to NOT be here is not mine to make. When I serve as a priest in a parish, each Sunday morning includes services, like it or not--whether I feel like it or not.  And I have to say that, since having children, I am struck in particular by the dedication of those who week after week manage to get their children here!  

So, why are you here?  Why aren’t you all wearing snugglies on your couches and brewing another cup of coffee?  Why aren’t you blearily rolling over in bed after glancing at the clock and realising that it’s Sunday and you don’t have to get up yet?  Isn’t the Sunday crossword beckoning?  Weren’t your pajamas comfortable enough?  I mean,’s cold outside!   

Why have you chosen this place and this space on this frigid Sunday morning?   What have you seen? What glimpse of the divine, what hunger, what longing, what yearning, has brought you to St. Clement’s today?  

And, if your answer to that question is “my parents made me”, why do you think they made you?  What is so important about being here today that your parents ignored your pleas to “just stay home” and made you come to church?

To church, today, where we find ourselves celebrating Global Mission Sunday--and marking the beginning of our seventh year of partnership with the work of restoration in Haiti.  Today, on Transfiguration Sunday, when we hear of what has been seen and speak of our own glimpses of the divine.  

As we move from Epiphany into Lent, Transfiguration stands as a cross roads of sorts.  

Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Jesus in our lives--transfiguration, as I see it, celebrates the transformation that occurs when we witness Jesus.  And it celebrates the lives of those who have been transformed by what they have seen--Elisha’s witness of Elijah’s dramatic departure; Paul who encountered the light of Christ in his own heart, and  Peter, James and John who stood transfixed and stood witness to God’s proclamation of love for God’s son, their friend. 
“Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."’

Peter, Peter, Peter...poor fellow, putting his foot in his mouth again.  But isn’t it human nature, to want to dedicate places and spaces in honour, in memory and in witness to something we have witnessed or encountered?  To try to capture the moment, as best we can, so that we can return to that moment again and again.  Monuments and memorials, scripture and song...trying to capture the dynamic movement and manifestation of God in our midst.  Oh that we might catch the whirl wind!

We can’t stay on the mountain top--Elisha has the duty to take the words of God back to his people.  Jesus cannot stay on the mountain in the booths his disciples offer to construct, he must make the journey into Jerusalem.  We can’t stay in this place of exquisite music, public prayer, and Cass Gilbert design forever...we have to leave out the doors and take the beauty, the charge, the power of our experience with us.  

Just as Elisha’s double portion of the Spirit drives him to the work of God in the world, so too does our own mountain top witness demand an action and reaction back in the work-a-day world.  It becomes our obligation to take what we have seen and share it with others.  

Following the final session of the race, power and privilege conversation that was held here over the last four weeks, the facilitators asked us how we might share what we’d learned with the larger community.  Someone in the group suggested that we might consider wearing buttons that say simply “Ask Me”, and invite others into conversation about ourselves, our community and the dynamic of privilege and race--not only in America, but in our immediate neighbourhood.  I wonder if Paul would have encouraged such buttons?  ”Ask Me”, inviting others into conversation about the good news of Christ in the world and the light that will forever shine in the darkness.

There are lots of ways to invite the proclaim to the world the transformation that has taken place in our own lives.  You may not wear a button, but there are other symbols which proclaim the new truths we have encountered.

After my first year of college I noticed a rather peculiar phenomena that stretched from mid-November through mid-December of each year.  Shortly before Thanksgiving break, and then again before Christmas, there would be a rather astonishing number of trips made by first year students to a couple of different institutions--the tattoo parlor and the piercing shop.  

Now you might think that getting a new tattoo, or your nose pierced or shaving your head, days before going home to your family might be the most ill advised thing anyone could do.  And, you may be right!  

But, these wanton actions, these body modifications on a seeming whim had a deeper meaning.  We had been transformed, by new learnings, new freedoms and new loves and when we prepared to return home to our families, we carried with us the desire to have those we’d left behind see that  WE WERE NOT THE SAME AS WE HAD BEEN.  So off we went, noses pierced and hair mussed up from the our own whirlwinds of encounter--back to the people and communities we had left months before.

“Ask me” we proclaimed!  And, so people did--and in their asking they learned of new loves, new learnings, and new passions made manifest. Pilgrims gone and returned again.  In coming months we will send off our own pilgrims to Haiti, and then in a few months pilgrims to Ireland.  And ,while I don’t think they will come back tattooed and pierced, I DO think that they will invite the conversation...Ask Me.

 Ask me the question, what did you see up on the mountain top?  Where did the chariot of fire take you?  What story of our neighborhood, what chance meeting on a Haitian mountain side, what requiem or mass, what sermon or song?  What did you see!? 


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