Posted by: mikebackup | February 17, 2012

Stop and hear the music

The Transfiguration

2After 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. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As 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.

We reap the reward of the benefit of hindsight when first looking at this Gospel account. It’s easy to criticise how Peter reacts, wanting to set up a tent when in the presence of such glory. It’s also very tempting to simply read these verses in a matter of fact type way. Jesus went up a mountain, was seen in a new way, the disciples were scared and they came back down. That’s great, onto the next bit; after all it’s just a side show to the main event isn’t it? In context of the Gospel it’s part of the story, but what about the story we’re sharing with Jesus as individuals and as a Christian community this very moment? We’re only part way through, we’re not at the end of our story and this Gospel account asks us to look hard at how we’re reacting to Jesus.

This personal challenge is not the same for everyone; it differs for where you are in your journey of faith. For those who are still making up their mind about faith it presents the challenge of reflecting on the experiences of life and simply asking whether you are prepared to see it in a new way, a way of a loving God.

For those who have made a good start in their Journey with God, what is your reaction to seeing the world in a God filled way? Are you reacting in fear like Peter and thinking very small, unable to cope with something so much bigger than you and the challenge God brings? Or are you reacting like any of the moments in your life when you were happy to admit you were terrified, felt unsure of your own skills but saw what opportunities lay in store if you broke through the fear? Perhaps you are being called to start or take part in a worthwhile cause; maybe you are being called to deepen your faith in baptism. Whatever it is, it will be a step up into the unknown. All I can say is being challenged and feeling scared is so much better than being comfortable and bored.

For those that have a long experience of faith, have had butterflies in the stomach for Jesus on more occasions than you can remember, how are you showing Jesus in a new way to the world? What are the ways in which you are so transfigured, people stand amazed? Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa were people that were so transfigured as people of God’s love that they transformed people. So there is challenge here for each of us wherever we stand in our faith.

However, there’s another perspective we must look at, the times that we don’t see God at all. This is when the problem is not so much being fearful in the presence of God but being fearful that God isn’t present at all. The mountain seems devoid of anything.

It is at those times we have to stop and open ourselves to see, to somehow allow the glory to speak and be seen amidst the darkness and pain. We need places, we can return to, to enable this to happen, an oasis in the desert. It might be a physical place, a certain bench in a park, a walk, a book, a painting, a play, a film. We only see the glory when we realise we are part of the glory. For me, one such place is the film ‘Tree of Life’ which was released last year. Critically it was received like Marmite, though it is up for ‘Best film’ at the Oscars! For me it simply connects me to life, God and creation in all its glorious ways I feel it was made just for me.

The trailer can be seen here:

For me it shows how from the smallest thing to the biggest thing we are gloriously connected in the majesty of creation. It’s not naïvely optimistic either, the pain and darkness is very much there and it challenges us to either live in despair or the hope of God’s love.

I would think carefully of those things that can help you see the glory and be reconnected to it spiritually. Have them ready for the dark times and visit them to give praise in the good times.

There’s another way we can retune ourselves to the glory of God and that’s simply opening our senses and looking at the world around us. We truly live in our own bubbles a lot of the time and it takes some effort to get out of them as the following brilliant example illustrates.

The story

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was …rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Story source: Then follow the links to the Washington Post.

Watch it here:

When you watch the video there is one big difference between what is seen and the story. In the story it said there was no recognition, but there was, that one woman who had stopped and watched him for a long time and spoke to him. She hadn’t been stuck in her own bubble.

So whether you’re scared about the challenge your faith is bringing or are scared that you can’t see the glory of God, I pray that you are committed to keeping your eyes open and not be afraid. We need to be people that stop and are able to recognise the glory and brilliance before them, even if we are the only one.


Lord, forgive us when we lose ourselves in mystery
without living in reality,
when we talk too much about God
and do too little of God’s work;
when we take up time explaining
and spend too little doing.
Hear our confession and turn us, O God,
towards living the mystery,
walking the talk, explaining through doing,
and let the wonder reveal in people
your glory born in us all.
May we be open to you in this world,
may we pause and wonder a little longer,
stop and imagine a little more often,
dream a little more deeply,
hope a little more readily,
that we have the means to see
not with eyes that always grow dim,
but with hearts and souls
that see the colours all the more vividly,
the deep purples and octarines,
the colour of laughter and the shape of love.
May we let go for a moment
those hands that grasp too tightly
the stuff of life,
and let ourselves fall into the glory of life,
to find you there calling us back into this world
with new vision and strength. Amen

The following is prayer that challenges us to transfigure a broken world:

For the transfiguring that food brings to the hungry, we pray;
where the world is recognised as having plenty
and the plenty is shared:
a new way to think about living in the world.
Hear us.

For the renewal that peace brings to those in conflict, we pray;
when the world gets tired of conflict
and the conflict is exhausted:
a new way to think about living in the world.
Hear us.

For the transformation that welcome brings to the stranger, we
when the world includes those forgotten
and the forgotten are included:
a new way to think about living in the world.
Hear us.

For the transfiguration that glory brings to the world, we pray;
seeing the glory seep in,
recognising the value of each individual,
noticing the worth of love:
a new way to think about living in the world.
Hear us.

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