Mark 9: 2-9
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then 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.’ 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Marcos 9: 2-9
2 Seis días después Jesús tomó consigo a Pedro, a Jacobo y a Juan, y los llevó a una montaña alta, donde estaban solos. Allí se transfiguró en presencia de ellos. 3 Su ropa se volvió de un blanco resplandeciente como nadie en el mundo podría blanquearla. 4 Y se les aparecieron Elías y Moisés, los cuales conversaban con Jesús. Tomando la palabra, 5 Pedro le dijo a Jesús:
—Rabí, ¡qué bien que estemos aquí! Podemos levantar tres albergues: uno para ti, otro para Moisés y otro para Elías.
6 No sabía qué decir, porque todos estaban asustados. 7 Entonces apareció una nube que los envolvió, de la cual salió una voz que dijo: «Éste es mi Hijo amado. ¡Escúchenlo!»
8 De repente, cuando miraron a su alrededor, ya no vieron a nadie más que a Jesús.
9 Mientras bajaban de la montaña, Jesús les ordenó que no contaran a nadie lo que habían visto hasta que el Hijo del hombre se levantara de entre los muertos.
Today we will consider the notion of divine inspiration. Our theme is inspired by the unusual occurrence on that mountain top upon which, I would assert, that Peter, James and John, literally experience a moment of divine in- breaking into their human lives. This week I sat at the keyboard awaiting divine inspiration for the words to inspire us about the subject of inspiration? I waited for that inspiration, and I waited longer, and it came. And such inspiration can be found in the wise words of Calvin, found in one of the Bill Watterson's comic strips in which, Hobbes asks Calvin if he's come up with an idea for a story yet. "No," the boy says, "I'm waiting for inspiration. You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood." "What mood is that?" Hobbes asks as he joins Calvin in the sandbox. Without raising his head the boy replies, "Last-minute panic."
Let us pray: Spirit of the living God, fall fresh upon us. Reveal in the ordinary, that which is extraordinary. Cultivate within us love that transcends the boundaries of the expected. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The Transfiguration is a mysterious event. It is revered as one of the important miracles of the New Testament. And yet, scholars agree that they struggle to agree on its significance. But here is what we do know about it. Right before the Transfiguration, Jesus tells his disciples, “Amen I tell you,” or “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God comes with power.” I will take some interpretive license and suggest that at one level, Jesus may have meant that seeing the kingdom involves divine inspiration. Inspiration is certainly a type of power. And then we are told that six days later, Peter, James and John are led by Jesus up a high mountain and his clothes became a dazzling white and Elijah and Moses appear. Talk about inspiring. Inspire comes from the Latin verb inspirare, “to breath into.” At this moment, God is breathing divinity into an otherwise mundane experience by placing Jesus in the company of giants of the Jewish faith. What should have been no more than a time of retreat and prayer, Peter, James, and John experience a divine inspiration. They see Elijah and Moses and then Jesus radiates, as if magically, and distinguishes him in the presence of the others.
Scripture portrays Peter’s perplexity in response to the event. The text says, “He did not know what to say.” And it relays the fear that the three disciples experienced. Peter nervously suggests that they make tents for Jesus and the other two legends of the faith that had appeared. Scholars are not sure what is meant by Peter’s impulsive idea but that it could be like the Mosaic tent of meeting at Mt. Sinai when Moses encountered YHWH on the mountain top, or it may have implied booths used at the traditional Feast for tabernacles. And then a voice comes from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And as they descend from the mountain, Jesus tells them not to talk about the experience with anyone. Jesus did not want their profound spiritual experience lessened by turning it into a conversation piece in their communities. But rather, to let the experience be an internal one that would continue to shape their lives from that day forward.
There are certainly times in life when we wish for, desire, or even believe ourselves in need spiritual inspiration. We long to be breathed into by God’s
Spirit. Something may be missing. We may be struggling with loss that challenges our spiritual fortitude. We may sense that our spiritual wells are dry and hope for them to be filled. We may be in search of assurance or affirmation. We may be seeking an answer to a question about an important decision. We may be doing pretty well but acknowledge that we are simply floating along and missing spiritual depth in our lives and wonder when we might be inspired to go after it. But, just as Calvin, or Calvin and Hobbs suggests, we cannot turn on a faucet for inspiration as if we were summoning a genie from a lamp or turning on a computer. Spiritual in- breaking into the world has a way of arriving in its own time. So what do we do when we seek divine inspiration? What might the Transfiguration experience tell us about the nature of divine inspiration?
We might say several things in response to that question: It is unexpected, it doesn’t immediately make sense, and most certainly, it comes, often when we put ourselves in positions to see it. And it shouldn’t always immediately make sense— we shouldn’t be critical of Peter’s confusion. As nineteenth century Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Mountains are traditionally places in scripture upon which God’s presence is made evident—places where the temporal meets the eternal, in which heaven and earth are bridged. It stands to reason that if we do not put ourselves in positions to see spiritual depths—if we do not take time to reflect, to pray, to expand our awareness of deeper realities, it is much less likely that we will even catch a glimpse of any spiritual revelation.
Our Celtic Christian brothers and sisters have a name for places like Mt Sinai, Mt. Tabor (if that is in fact the sight of the Transfiguration), and other places of spiritual significance. The Celts call places that take us out of ourselves in which we sense or experience the divine “thin places.” I have often heard that term applied to Ghost Ranch—a place in which perception of the divine—of deeper spiritual connection seems palpable. These places can vary from person to person. But what are actual or metaphorical places that are thin to you? Is there a mountain top, or a park, a library, some place far off, a famous basilica, or an out- of-the was church or some place that, if you periodically take time to go there, your mind leaves its normal concerns and becomes more open to the spiritual.
Father Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation here in Albuquerque, calls thin places a spiritual edge on which we are to live. In a Huffington Post article citing his work, Rohr is quoted, “The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, ‘a thin place,’ and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests and job security. Not much truth can happen there.”
But besides putting ourselves in position to be spiritually inspired, there is another important aspect of spiritual inspiration. Most of us acknowledge that at some time in our lives, we have experienced one or more powerful spiritual moments. We have experienced moments on a spiritual edge or in a thin places. God has broken into our lives with divine inspiration. It behooves us to remember some of those times, to be thankful for them, and to allow the significance of those moments to carry us on the days in which the inspiration seems far off. What has for you been a profound spiritual experience or experiences in your life? The answer to that question, or those questions, is of significance. Those may be moments of Transfiguration in which God’s light shines in your life and causes transformation. Even if you have not had such an experience like that in a long time, it does not diminish past experiences. Such a powerful moment does not have to be miraculous in the way that the Bible describes the Transfiguration— simply one in which you sense God’s power breaking into your life.
I can’t help but note the analogous nature of spiritual inspiration and inspiration for writers. I suspect that on occasion, they can be one in the same. I was intrigued when I came upon a cache of quotes by writers about inspiration. Almost all of them were critical of the idea of sitting and waiting to write until the faucet of inspiration poured open. For example, author Jack London, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Or José Ortega y Gasset who about inspiration wrote, “Better beware of notions like genius and inspiration.
They are a sort of magic wand and should be used sparingly by anybody who wants to see things clearly. And according to distinguished American Author Toni Morrison, "I can't explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn't really be a writer."
Like writing, the spiritual journey may be a lot of work, struggle, and patient faith. But through that, divine inspiration breaks in with the grace and love of God. Just because we cannot summon God’s inspiration, doesn’t mean that we can’t ready ourselves for when it comes. And let’s face it, we are all invited to play active roles in writing the story of our lives. Do we just let it be written for us by fate, or do we write with a spiritual pen that allows for brief moments, in which we recognize that by grace, that pen is heal by an author greater than ourselves.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Palabra de Vida
You will find sermons preached by Rev. Robert Woodruff and guests preachers.