Gentle Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church, Phoenix, Ariz.
Then Haw stuck his head out and peered anxiously into the maze. He thought about how he’d gotten himself into this cheeseless situation. He had believed that there may not be any Cheese in the maze, or that he may not find it. Such fearful beliefs were immobilizing and killing him. Haw became more anxious and wondered if he really wanted to go out into the maze. He wrote a saying on the wall ahead of him and stared at it for some time: “What Would you Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”
He thought about it. He knew sometimes some fear can be good. When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don’t do something, it can prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything. He looked to his right, to the part of the maze where he had never been, and felt the fear. Then, he took a deep breath, turned right into the maze, and jogged slowly, into the unknown.
(Excerpts of pages 47-49, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and Jesus was transfigured before them, and Jesus’ garments became glistening, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For Peter did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved child; to this one you shall listen.’ And suddenly looking around they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Human One should have risen from the dead.
It is hard to believe that this is the final section, in a series of eight, since we have begun this journey of exploring prayer. Time flies, things change, life goes on. How many of you feel a little more comfortable with idea of change today than when you started reading this series eight issues ago? A simple growth is the awareness that change happens and it can be good. Now think about how you have awakened to your own sense of change and empowerment and what that means in your life, then reflect on it. I hope you see the handwriting on the wall. Change happens!
Prayer is a subject that most of us thought we already understood quite well. In this final part of this series we explore the final aspect of prayer; prayer that helps us grow. We have looked at prayer as connection to God, to the source, to ourselves, to our roots, connection to one another. We’ve looked at prayer as communion with the cosmos, with all of creation around us and how we live in harmony with that. We’ve looked at prayer as the art of healing, the willing of good. We’ve looked at prayer as the doing of good; getting your hips in motion and doing something. That’s prayer. We’ve looked at prayer as making peace with our past which leads us to prayer that touches our future. In this final installment we see prayer as envisioning the potential of what can be realizing our imagination, like children at play. This is prayer. Do you remember what Jesus said? “Unless you become as little children you cannot enter the realm of God.” What do you really think that Jesus meant there? What I believe is that unless you set your mind free, to imagine what you once thought impossible, you cannot experience heaven because heaven is pretty much an impossibility. But if you become like a child who can turn a pencil into space rockets, you too can enter heaven.
Today we see prayer as “silence to become rather than words to confuse.” If you remember nothing else from this series, remember this:
“The Power of Prayer is the power to flow with life.”
For we have learned that in life everything changes. Prayer is the power to flow with the changes and if you remember nothing else that I have stated, remember that statement above all and your life will be distinctly better.
If you are a “Trekkie” have you ever noticed how it was always about going out there; to go where no one has gone before. To go out there exploring. But what if the greatest adventure that anyone could ever have is not out there? What if the greatest adventure were within yourself?
In this last part of the story from “Who Moved My Cheese,” we backtrack a little. We read something that we read in part seven of this series. Haw has decided that the cheese situation at Cheese Station C is hopeless. He knows it is. The cheese is gone and they are never going to bring it back – never to return. Things have changed and thus he must change with them. Haw peers out into the maze. He thought about how he had gotten himself into this cheeseless situation. He had believed that there may not be any cheese in the maze or he may not find it. Such fearful beliefs were immobilizing him and killing him. Haw became more and more anxious and he wondered if he really wanted to go out into the maze. He wrote a saying on the wall ahead of him and stared at it for sometime.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
That is a profound question to ask, isn’t it? What would you do with your job, your life, your relationship, your home, your family, yourself if you weren’t afraid? Haw thought about it. He knew sometimes some fear can be good because it is good to be afraid, especially when there is a rattlesnake chasing you. This is a wise fear to have. Some fear CAN be good. When you are afraid that things are going to get worse, if you don’t do something, it can prompt you into action. BUT, it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything, such as in Haw’s situation. Haw looked to his right, to the part of the maze where he had never been and felt the fear. Then he took a deep breath, turned right into the maze and jogged slowly into the unknown, going where no one had gone before.
Our Gospel lesson is one of those strange readings from the Bible where Jesus glows brightly, like an alien and one wants to question what they would do with that passage of scripture. How do you make that relevant? Where do you go to relate it to our lives today? First of all we must understand that the word transfiguration comes from the Greek word “metamorpho.” In ancient Greek, “meta” which is change and “morpho” means form. In other words: to change your form. It’s from the same root word as repent. Meta is repentance; changing your form is to be transfigured.
Jesus takes Peter, James and John and they go up a mountainside. You must understand that this is a turning point in the life of Jesus if you really want to understand how this scripture impacts you. On top of the mountain something happens. Something that is so powerful and so confusing that they don’t even talk about it until months and years have passed. Have you ever had an experience of life that you just had to sit with for a long time until finally you could wrestle with it? Jesus is up there and knows he is being called to go to Jerusalem and challenge the religious and political authorities there but he is not stupid. Jesus knows that if you stick your neck out far enough, someone will chop it off. We’ve all felt that way in work situations, with family, or with friends. Jesus knew it and knew it literally because he knew what people who were accused of treason were sentenced to death – death on a cross. So he climbs this mountain and there he touches what is really inside of him. Have you ever seen someone come to peace with themselves? They glow. You especially see it just before death with someone who has come to terms with it. People touch what is really inside of them and it shows up on the outside. Jesus became bright with everything that was in him. Peter, James, and John saw it and they were amazed! Then Jesus talked with those who had walked the journey before him – Moses and Elijah.
[As a side note: Prior to losing people who were really significant in my own life, like my mother, my father and my partner Mark who passed away a few years ago I would have told you that you were just silly if you talked to people who are dead. Now I think you are silly if you don’t. They know a lot more than you do! A lot more.]
Now here was Jesus meeting with Moses and Elijah. However, Peter was afraid and I would be too, as most of us would be. And there are two lessons we need to learn from this passage of scripture. Peter didn’t know what to say.
Lesson one: When you don’t know what to say, saying nothing is an option. We rarely ever use it, but it is an option. When you don’t know what to say SAY NOTHING!
Lesson Two: When you do not grasp what has happened, talking about it repetitively will probably just confuse you further. If you can’t grasp it, sit with it. Peter, James and John are watching as Jesus is touching what is inside of him as he shares with those who have walked the journey before and then God speaks from a cloud, maybe answering Peter’s outburst that perhaps shouldn’t have happened. “This is my child, my son!” Just like in baptism! When we started out on this journey together, we started out with Jesus’ baptism, where God speaks and says: “You are my child, you make me happy.” In baptism, in our connection with God, God speaks to each and every one of us. “You are my daughter, you are my son, you make me happy!” Understand that just as that happened for Jesus, for us the same is true about transfiguration. It’s about changing form, about touching what is really inside of us. God spoke: “This is my child; listen to him.” There is nothing more convincing than someone who has come to terms with themselves and they are certain of what they are doing. You know that it is true within your own life.
All of a sudden Jesus is alone with his disciples and they go down the mountain and Jesus tells them to not tell anyone until after his resurrection, which is about the glory of life. The idea is that you get hold of the idea that life is more powerful than death and that the glory of life lives within you. Resurrection works for me. Do you know why? I actually believe that resurrection happens because I am a dreamer, which is exactly the point of this story.
It was a moment of deep prayer. Prayer where Jesus envisioned the potential that lived deep inside of him. He glowed because of it. It was a prayer, the same as releasing the imagination of a child, that says it’s possible to stop bullets with a smile. Ask Gandhi, he did. Prayer as silence to become instead of words to confuse. It was a moment of metamorphosis for Jesus from this moment on. From the moment he walked down off of that mountain, he heads for Jerusalem. Nothing will stop him because he is determined to go to Jerusalem. It was a moment of deep change. However, for the witnesses, they saw what they had never seen! The glory of a human as the glory of God and came to understand that it lived inside of them too. True prayer allows us to know the depth of our own grace, our own glory, going where no one has gone before.
Haw took a deep breath. He looked into the maze to the right and he jogged slowly into the unknown. Haw found the maze quite fascinating. Along the way he got weary and tired and sometimes he wanted to give up. Sometimes he would sit and just imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by cheese. He went through everything.
You see Haw represents the you and I that can change. We are more complex than just saying, “Get over it! Move on! Stop over analyzing things!” Although sometimes people need to hear those things and it just may work but we are really more complex than those things. There’s a little bit of Sniff in all of us, who sniffs out change early and reacts. There’s a little bit of Scurry in all of us, who gets into action. Then there is a little bit of Hem in us, who resists change because we fear that it will bring something worse. And there is a little bit of Haw in us, who learns to adapt in time and embrace change.
Prayer is the power to bring us back to the center; to stop being only a Sniff, only a Scurry, or only a Hem who will probably die back at Cheese station C if nobody goes and picks him up to move him on, or even Haw. Prayer is the power to bring us back to a center from irrational fear to flights of fancy (which simply is something that you will not commit yourself to until something happens). Prayer is the power to flow with life, to re-center so we CAN get over it, move on, stop over-analyzing things. Growing always means change but change is not always growing. Do not change only to become what you are already seeking. Let change be becoming what you do not yet know; what you haven’t figured out yet. Be open to something completely different than you could have ever thought of.
Jesus’ metamorphosis was like a butterfly. It was from going one way into going a completely different way. He had no idea what it would look like, but reached for it in prayer. Prayer is not only the power to seek what you can envision, or to build what you can imagine. Prayer is the power to trust in what you cannot yet see that you will become, which is the glory within. Going where no one has gone before is the journey to the you that you have yet to discover. How many of you started out ten years ago knowing what you would be like, look like, or be doing today? I’ll bet if you looked back and thought what you thought it would be like in ten years, it has turned into something totally different than you could have ever imagined. Prayer allows us to go to the journey – to the you, we have yet to grow into. Pray as play, imagination, creativity, as silence to become, is the place we find freedom to do the growing to let us become all we can be.
I’m not going to tell you if Haw ever finds cheese. You can get the book and read it yourself. Although I will say that entering the maze; the maze of life, which is yourself, may really be the true cheese one searches for. Instead I want to leave you with this:
Haw looked to his right, to the part of the maze where he had never been, and felt the fear. Then, he took a deep breath, turned right into the maze, and jogged slowly, into the unknown.
Going where no one has gone before is the journey we all must make. It is entered into by prayer. It is the journey within to grow on and out there.
“Pray without ceasing.”
Amen, Shalom and Blessed Be.
Rev. Brad Wishon was called in 1997 to serve as Pastor of Gentle Shepherd MCC, now Metropolitan Community Church Phoenix, in Arizona. An LGBT activist, he was named to Echo Magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2012 and named its Man of the Year in 2004.
In 2004, as Massachusetts became the first state to offer same-sex marriage, he was part of a local effort by clergy to help couples to try to obtain marriage licenses. When they were denied, he and others performed weddings for about 40 couples.
He was involved with No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice, a Phoenix-area group with the mission of sharing an alternative religious perspective on homosexuality. He promoted the Phoenix Declaration, which calls for the end of LGBT discrimination.