You know that feeling like you’re right in the middle of something? Pretty sure you do.
Could be the middle of anything, from life to a time to a task, a game, a book or a show, a walk or a ride. If there’s a beginning and an end, there must be a middle, right? Sometimes it can feel good to be in the middle of something, sometimes not so much. We might even prefer the beginning or end of something, feeling the excitement of just getting started or the satisfaction - or relief - of concluding. Sometimes, being “in the middle of something” isn’t even the literal middle, so much as an expression we use to describe just being involved. We’re engaged, we’re doing. Sometimes, being in the middle is about being in between things. It’s a middle ground, a transitional space. Sometimes it’s all of these things, like the movie title “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” That’s what the world feels like today, globally, nationally, in our communities and neighbourhoods, in our homes. We’re just in the middle of it all.
We’re experiencing a little of that with church these days (minus the threat to the multiverse and the unravelling of reality, I hope). We’ve come to the end of Epiphany, the period after Christmas whose theme is light, enlightenment and the revealing of Jesus in the world. We’re about to the embark on the journey of Lent, a time traditionally observed as being for self-reflection, wondering about our relationship with God and preparing for the most important “light” of the year, Easter, and the resurrection story. We’ve been using that season of light to explore some of the key pieces of our faith tradition: the Bible, images of God, Jesus, the Trinity and inclusivity. It’s certainly been enlightening, though, again, it feels like we’re just in the middle of it and now, it’s time for Lent.
But wait. In the middle, between Epiphany and Lent comes a particularly enlightening story. Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-9). Jesus takes three of the disciples and goes up a mountain where he is transfigured - he shines with a bright inner light. Eugene Peterson translates Mark’s account like this: “His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them.” Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus. The disciples want to mark the occasion by building three memorials, but Jesus says no, and then the voice of God is heard in a cloud saying “this is my beloved son, listen to him.” Then they’re alone again and Jesus asks them to not tell anyone about it until after his resurrection.
Confused and fearful disciples, epic special effects, callbacks to an earlier story (Jesus’ baptism) and Hebrew traditions, wisdom and the prophets, and there’s Jesus, in the middle of it all, just being the most Jesus. And while we sandwich this story in the middle between Epiphany and Lent, the author of Mark puts it right in the middle of Jesus’ life story. Jesus has been baptized, he goes into the wilderness, then into his ministry, healing, teaching and preaching, rising in fame. He’s at the top of his game. And then this story. And then, down the mountain and on to Jerusalem, challenged by the authorities and eventually killed, and then the biggest light of all coming from the empty tomb.
Standing in the middle, looking back at where he’s come from and forward to what’s ahead, standing with his own followers and visions of Moses and Elijah, and the presence of God, in the middle of all that, what does Jesus do? He shines.
In the middle of it all, Jesus shines with the light of his true self, the light of the divine spirit and his earthly being. I believe that’s part of what Jesus is about: to show us that we too, have that divine spirit, “the image of God,” and earthly being in each of us. He shows us that we can live true to it and love true to it, and shine with the true light of it. Whatever is happening in our lives, wherever we are, on the mountain top or in the valley of shadow or anywhere in the middle of things, the light is in each of us. Shine.