Monday, May 11, 2009

Sharing Divinity

[From a sermon preached at St John's Church, Tulsa, OK, 22 February, 1998]

Our being is transfigured into the divine likeness, our share in the divine nature, and it is not by accident that many of our moments of complete self-forgetfulness come when we are gazing into the divine light shining from the unveiled face of our friends and neighbours. Indeed, it is the soul’s practice of beholding that enables us to see beyond the surface into the heart of another, in what often seems to our blinded eyes the most unlikely people, the extraordinary in the ordinary, the divine in the human, the humility that is divinity.

But this joy is too much for us. We are afraid of joy, far more than we are afraid of our fantasies of other kinds of death, of mortality. We are afraid of joy the way we are afraid of the boundless freedom that accompanies it; we are afraid of the sorrow of longing that is its other face. We are afraid to be held in thrall by joy, to allow all the hallucinatory chains we forge for ourselves to fall away.

All our being longs for epiphanies, for the vision of God to be made manifest—but we want to control it, we want it only in the form of our safe, stereotyped ideas of so-called religious experience, in our so-called spiritual life, which often does little more than crowd our minds with even more noise and images than are already there. We are too frightened of joy to leave a space of opportunity for God to take us into unbounded realms where darkness and light are both alike, where we are guided by no compass, but solely by the coordinates of grace.

‘Now ...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another...’ —this is too much for us. We try furtively to veil this radiance within, to hide it from our selves, and others; we engage in frantic busy-ness in order to flee from silence: we love our illusions too much, the price of letting them go is too high. But—thankfully—our efforts at hiding from this radiance are futile. In Christ, the vision of God is already among us, and the radiance of beholding is already shining in profound simplicity from the faces that surround us.

In Luke's account of the Transfiguration, the disciples were ‘afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken...they kept silence.’


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