How scary would it be to climb up a mountain, to be in the middle of nowhere to pray, and find that your friend was literally glowing? And sharing a conversation, before your very eyes, with fathers of the faith who passed away a long time ago? This must have challenged them. And I have to believe that they were able to see and engage in this moment because they had first gone up the mountain with Jesus to pray. They changed their location. They went away. Went away to pray - to listen, to be with God. And because they made this room in their day, in their minds, in their hearts, they're able to see an experience a piece of Jesus they didn't know before.
I'm thinking about this a lot this week because I, too, am on top of a mountain. I'm spending the week at the School of Theology in Sewanee, TN. One of the Episcopal Seminaries, this is a place that has a challenging past - particularly around race. And we are here, a large group of us gathered, to learn about Latino Ministry in the Episcopal Church and to study the history of Latino/a people who live in the United States. And we're talking specifically about how we can care better for many generations of Latino people, how we can make our liturgies and worship spaces more welcoming, how we can more effectively offer Christ's love across the boundaries of language and culture. I feel a little bit like the disciples, up here on the side of the mountain, looking for a piece of Jesus I've never seen before. Hoping to catch a glimpse of that love in action that I've been missing - to which I've been blind. And to learn how I can harness that love, with God's help and the help of other faithful people, to share further the good news of Jesus, to build more of God's kingdom now - to advance to hope of peace and justice. Together, on this mountain, we are seekers - we pray, and study, and think together - so that then we might go and do. Having been changed ourselves and learned some more about how to serve all people.
At the end of this week, we'll come down the mountain having spent time together in this intensive, immersion course. And we'll go to Atlanta to visit a detention center, and to be present with communities of immigrants and Latino people. We'll begin to practice some of what we've learned this week, and hopefully engage God's people with new skills - and maybe more importantly, new hearts - new eyes, new love. You see, there's magic in the coming down the mountain, too. Having seen Jesus transfigured, learning something more about him - we all must come back down the mountain to use that knowledge, to put our hearts and hands and new ideas to work. All of us can do this over and over again in our lives - in fact, we must. If we truly seek to follow Jesus, we must come away from the busy-ness of our lives, to make space to learn and pray - and to listen to other people who have different puzzle pieces than we do. In the hope that in the end, when we all put all of our pieces together, the image is one of peace - and welcome - and wholeness for all people - in all the diversity that God made, across lines of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education level, and on and on. God calls each of us from time to time to come away, to listen, to learn, and to look for Jesus that we might have a new perspective.
Where might you go to find a new perspective on Jesus? Who might you talk to? What do you need to learn? How can you give yourself the chance to step away - to make room in your routine and in your heart to see Jesus more fully? To understand more about who he is and what he might be calling you to do? I want to encourage you, as summer winds to a close, to make some time for this important spiritual journey. Take some time. You don't need to go far away, and you don't even need to go up the mountain. You could just go to the supermarket and engage someone you don't know. Or go to a part of town you've not been to, sit - and listen. Make space for God to speak to you through the beauty of nature, through people you don't know, and even in the silence of your heart. Listen to the story of someone you never considered before - someone you thought you knew, someone who challenges you. Remember that God loves each one of us - all of us. And in this new perspective you've found, tap into that love from God that connects us all. Anchor yourself in it so that when you re-enter your life, that new perspective stays with you. Hang on to that new puzzle piece of Jesus - that new image. Take it with you, and let it enlighten your life. Let it help you point that same love toward your neighbor, toward all your neighbors. Go find him, and then come back down the mountain with him to change the world.