The transfiguration story is a rather strange story which I must confess has become one that has become very significant for me in my own spirit and life journey over the last five years. As Marcus Borg reminds us “Myth are stories about the way things never were, but always are.”
It is precisely five years ago, I left for a short Lenten sabbatical retreat right after Transfiguration Sunday and in preparing for that retreat I noticed that, if I manage to survive until normal “retirement” date, that particular Transfiguration Sunday was exactly half way through my vocational life with the United Church…17 years, 2 month behind me, 17 years, 2 months ahead. This realization was both sobering and grounding.
In the gospel story, the transfiguration story serves as a middle point in the Jesus story, a time when Jesus and those closest to Jesus are regrounded as ancestors in the faith appear in vision and as Jesus, half way between his baptism and his death, hears again sacred voice declaring that he is “beloved”.
Ninevah was so big that it took three days to cross it!!!! Now that sounds like a “really big fish” story to me, a whale of a tale.
The Biblical story of Jonah is one of the most vivid and memorable Biblical narratives and it is a story that we can readily relate to. It is Marcus Borg, that Jesus Seminar scholar who died a few weeks ago, who helps us understand the depth of Biblical myths when he notes that . “Myth are stories about the way things never were, but always are.”
Jonah is a really big fish story that never was but always is. In the story, the Biblical story teller does a wonderful job of creating an epic which reminds us of our own experiences of the dark times and thus enables to us apply this story to our own faith lives. As I mentioned last week it is the poet Carl Sandburg who penned the words
If I should pass the tomb of Jonah,I would stop there and sit awhile
Because I was swallowed one time in the dark, And came out alive after all
On this first Sunday of 2015, of another calendar year, both our Scripture texts speak about beginnings. The beginning of creation in Genesis chapter 1 and the beginning of the good news of Christ Jesus in Mark chapter 1.
I love the creation stories described by the writer of Genesis and of course we just read a small part of the story, but we all know how the stories ends…everything that is good gets screwed up because of the darned apple…and that devious snake… and of course gullible Eve and weak Adam…
Right? Actually not, not right! Most of what I just said is what we think the story says, but it actually doesn’t.
There is no mention of an apple in the story, and when you read and study the Bible a little more carefully, one discovers the snake may not be so bad at all. For those of you who have heard me wax eloquently before, I argue that there is very solid textual evidence that the snake is more divine than devil. (But that is another reflection which I will bring back some time. You can ask me if you are curious in the meantime.)