Community of the Transfiguration Retreat
As you’ve heard over the last few days, I grew up inCentral Florida. It was a very different world in the 1950s and 60s than it is today. I call it the “pre Disney” days ofFloridabefore the state was ruined by overdevelopment and under-taxation. Before a thousand people a day began pouring across the borders and actually moving intoFlorida. Before greed took over and began to ruin the water…and the land…and the lives of so many people.
But, I digress! It was really a wonderful time and place to grow up. My Dad was really into boats and we had a succession of them, ranging from little runabouts to a pretty good sized cabin cruiser we once took up theSt. John’sRiverfromSanfordtoJacksonvilleand back down the Inland Waterway all the way to the Keys. It took us most of the summer and was a vacation I shall never forget!
Early in the trip we were crossingLakeMonroewhich was a large, but relatively shallow lake into which theSt. John’sRiverflows and from which it continues its lazy, northern flow. On this particular day, a storm came up on the lake and the whitecaps began tossing us around pretty badly, even breaking over the bow and threatening to swamp the boat! We broke out the life jackets, began to bail, and Dad began trying to steer us back toward the shore.
Suddenly, a large fish jumped right into the boat! It was flopping around all over, and I asked my father, “Should we keep it, Dad?” He said, “Hell no, throw it overboard. We don’t have time for that now.” Well, I did so…we made it safely back to shore, and then began to laugh out loud, because it was the largest fish either my Dad or I had ever caught. And all we could think of to do was throw it back because we were so anxious about the storm!
I never read the story in Mark’s Gospel about Jesus stilling the storm that I do not think about that incident! TheSea of Galileeshares a lot in common withLakeMonroeinFloridain that they are both relatively shallow bodies of water and can be whipped into a frenzy by a sudden storm before you know it. Even experienced sailors can find themselves in a perilous situation in a hurry!
It’s easy to panic in such a situation. And that’s exactly what the disciples did even after they had awakened Jesus and asked him, “Don’t you even care if we are perishing?” But he calmed them as well as the storm with two commands, “Peace! Be still!” I hope that’s what you have experienced during these days of retreat. Peace…and stillness.
Many sermons have been preached on this Gospel pericope about the stilling of the storm. All the imagery is there – the trials and difficulties of life as a storm-tossed sea; the Church as a boat or a ship (the “Ark of Salvation”); our tendency to panic and to forget that Jesus is right alongside us in the boat – the One who can always bring peace and stillness into any storm life may throw at us.
As an anonymous homily in The Living Church put it last week: “Our boat is small and the seas are rough. But the master of the sea is with us, and at a word he will speak peace. Have we left him asleep in the stern, or does he command our way through the shoals? He is with us, but how often do we fall into faithless fear? Let us,St. Augustineurges, awaken him by prayer. ‘When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the wind blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. Why?
Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him.”
The young David had to rely on that presence of the God of Israel when he confronted Goliath in our First Lesson today. (I Samuel 17) “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine,” said the brash young man. And so he did!
St. Paul had to draw on that constant presence of the Risen Christ on an almost daily basis as he faced the kinds of obstacles he lists for us in this morning’s Epistle (2 Corinthians 6) –afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger and all the rest of it. As we have reflected together on our spiritual journeys over the last week, we have remembered some of the trials and tribulations you and I have gone through…and what we’ve learned along the way.
As Christians living the vowed life you have sought, over the years, to stay in touch with the Risen Christ in the same ways Paul did – by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.
Oh, you haven’t always done it perfectly, I’m sure. But those were your best intentions. As a member of this particular Community you even know what it is to live “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
We began this retreat with a little reflection on my favorite Psalm 84 which gave us our theme: Hearts Set on the Pilgrims’ Way. I’d like to conclude with us praying it together – as an act of thanksgiving for the life and ministry that have been ours…and as an act of rededication to the life we have promised to live. (It begins on page 707 in theBCP…)