O’r Hendref i’r Hafod.
Preswylir o’r Gaeaf i’r Haf.
Ymestyn, dysgu llawenhau.
From the Hearth onto the heath.
Winter to summer dwelling.
Stretching, learning to rejoice.
I’ll begin with a very old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is near – Does it make any noise? Alternatively: If Jesus was raised from the dead, but no-one saw it happen, was he really raised from the dead? You can think about that for a moment or two. Two weeks ago we began to celebrate Easter. I say began, because the season of Easter is not one day long, but runs right up to Pentecost and we continue to celebrate the resurrection throughout this whole period. It tells us something. Something that our readings for this season tell us as well, that Easter was not one moment, but many many moments of realisation. Moments of clarity when everything comes into focus. For some it was seeing the empty tomb. For others it was in a locked room or walking along a road. For still others it was sharing breakfast. An experience of life made new. And here again as Jesus is amongst the disciples in Luke’s Gospel eating fish and talking amongst his friends. There are two things that give me comfort about all these experiences. The first is that they are experiences. Something happens. It is not something that they read, as we read their accounts given to us by the Gospel writers or in the book of Acts. No. The first witnesses to the resurrection experienced the risen Christ for themselves. That gives me comfort because if faith in God was only about writing in a book then I’d probably not be here. The second thing that gives me comfort is that there is disbelief and wonder and uncertainty. Not everything was understood. Not everything was easy. Not everything was immediately plain to them. They had to work it out from what they experienced.
So I come back to my tree in the woods. The tree falls in the woods, but no-one is around. Does it make any sound? Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there! It may have made a sound, it may not. But that is not particularly important. What is important is that when I then go into the woods and see the tree on the ground, I can say that this tree has fallen down. Why? Because I can experience for myself the tree lying in the forest, it’s roots lifted up from the ground. From that experience I don’t go back and say to others I’m really not sure whether that tree made a noise falling down or not. What I can report is that there is a tree fallen. This is the problem we often have with Easter. We need to get the experience right. We need to experience the risen Christ for ourselves rather than to hear about it. I can tell you about it, or you can read about it in the bible. But it really doesn’t capture anyone’s imagination until it is experienced. Now if you then go out into the woods to look for the tree that I discovered, I doubt that you will wonder if it made any noise falling down. You might however marvel at the sight. The opening in the canopy perhaps where the tree stood. The other trees that were damaged as it fell over. The space that was created by this one tree falling. The possibilities for new life as one life comes to an end. Just so, we need to go out and experience the risen Christ for ourselves. I can point you in the right direction, and for some this may be a tree fallen in the woods, for some this may be amongst refugees and homeless. For some it may be in kind words from a stranger. The risen Christ continues to be experienced and whether in broiled fish or in bread and wine or in conversation or even in a forest, we need to be on the look out for the Christ as we continue to celebrate, but most of all we ourselves become witnesses to these things.
For Transfiguration Sunday: Oh Peter, when will you learn? A booth is a resting place of twigs and branches woven together to form a temporary dwelling. Like the willow domes perhaps in the garden of our schools. I like to call them ipods. you sit inside one and tune in to the inner music. Hence the Jewish name the Festival of Booths or tabernacles as it was known. But it’s tempting I know to try to capture a moment, when the sun shines brightly on an early spring morning creating the dappled shade under a hawthorn as a robin sings and pecks at an unsuspecting worm. Or the early afternoon clouds which form ever changing pictures in the sky and dogs chase after snakes who turn effortlessly into smoke before our eyes. or the quiet way the breeze builds in sound before we feel the coolness on our face. It’s temping to try and capture those moments to make them last forever. And Peter recognised the beauty of the moment, the special, never to be repeated moment and wanted it to last a life time. Well you would when faced with the Eternal Christ. These moments are those in which our soul can rest where we feel complete at harmony with ourselves and with all that is around us. And they are rare unless we are of the disposition to be constantly on the lookout – not to create them, for that is not how they come about. Is that what we do at our eucharist, continue to try and capture some of the essence of that moment? Does it work, maybe for some, but sometimes perhaps we try too hard to see once again the beauty and magic of that moment and forget to let the moment we are in also speak to us. I’ve often found these moments occur when something new is discovered, something new i’ve experienced or done or noticed or seen before. So does that mean the older you get the less of them you will have, or that with practice you become better at spotting and being prepared for them? Moments of transfiguration are moments of pure beauty, pure love and I would say the presence of the Eternal Christ. We must however, like the disciples, come down from the mountain. With a camera or poetry, words and pictures rarely make up for the experience of it all. But Peter tries without really knowing what he is seeing before him, just that he would rather it didn’t end. And Mark tries to apologise for him. And God issues the warning – this is my beloved son, listen to him. The temptation is always to try and stay on the mountain and not return to the world.
poppy seed transfiguration
have you been to the garden centre and looked
at the selection of packets with pictures
of prize winning marrows and flowers in bloom
like a thousand prisoners
those seeds hang
on death rows
sow by date stamped on each packet
a life sentence without parole
starving inside foil to keep fresh the irony
for a seed fresh is one just born
so i hold a single prisoner
one captive amongst many
since summer last year kept in a jar
among the spices and packets
of unknown contents on a shelf
is there no justice
for the fruits of earth bearing seed
is nothing if not allowed to grow
in hand it does nothing but sit and wait
I have to let go before it can flourish
If I cling to it and marvel
the good will not come
that can be held
like a seed in the hand
needs warmth and moisture
a good sod of earth
but first I must let go
throw it down let it free
the seed you hold is a prisoner
let me go, let me grow, let me be transfigured