I have never told anyone before
And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
I felt the presence of my mom’s spirit even after she was no longer in her body. I saw an angel. I heard a voice tell me to stop over at my friend’s home. I walked into the room and could smell my mother’s perfume even though no one else had been there and I was alone.
Sometimes the above statements were preceded by “I have never told anyone before” and sometimes also “I am afraid you will think I have lost my mind, but I needed to tell someone” or variations on the two. Our encounters with that which can't be explained in our minds can be frightening, confusing, disorienting and even isolating.
As pastor, I have heard people’s stories of their encounters with all sorts of things they could not always explain or understand. Sometimes the experience is with angels or the spirit of someone they loved who is no longer alive and sometimes it is an encounter with an evil they described as a demon. They had come to me because they needed to share what happened to them and didn’t know where else to go. Often they are afraid of being judged, labeled or “locked up”.
This weekend we read Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). These can be tricky and challenging biblical texts to understand. In conversations this week regarding Luke 9, I have thought about how hard it can be for us be vulnerable and share experiences that we can’t explain with our logic or reason.
This is the last week of our 9 week weight loss preaching series. We are asking God’s help to lose the weight of being cool and in control. We are asking for God to create in us laughter, song and dance. The fruit of the Spirit of Joy invites us to let loose.
When folks have shared their experiences of the divine and the demonic there has been a need for connection, reassurance and a “judgment-free” space. They are letting go of needing to fully understand what has happened and moved by a desire to share it. When there have been stories shared of encounters with darkness and the demonic the courage to share it allows light into the darkness and releases the shame and secrecy.
The disciples didn’t ultimately keep their silence. They ended up talking about their experience on the mountain top with Jesus even as they didn’t fully understand and didn’t explain it. As we finish up this season of Epiphany- of light, illumination, insight, Jesus revealed as divine -I encourage and invite you to consider your own experiences. Are there stories you have been reluctant to share for fear of what others would think? Have you had things happen to you which you couldn’t rationally explain or understand and weren’t sure that it was okay to speak of them or share them?
We are on this journey together for many reasons. I wonder if James suggested to John or Peter checked in with James about sharing the story of what they experienced on that day on a mountaintop with Jesus? We don’t know what took place that got it to be shared. Something changed for them in those days from keeping silent and telling no one. We now get to share in the story. This can then be for us also a nudge to share our stories of mountaintop experiences or dark valleys. As we move from Epiphany to Lent in the church year we move from the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration to the mountaintop of Mount Calvary and the crucifixion. We travel together with stories and experiences to hear in our sacred Scriptures and stories from our lived encounters to share. In the love of Christ that is the light that casts out darkness let’s keep journeying together!