The times, they are a changin’

Bob Dylan isn’t really my kind of musician – but for many folks, he is the definition of musician.

His poetry and his boldness made him a valuable voice of his times.

Dylan was among those people we now might call visionary –

they told the story of the times in a new way

– they were visual – they were radical – they were blunt.

They were the prophets of different kind of transfiguration –

the transfiguration of society – though without the bright lights and heavenly voices…

Dylan uses imagery that should sound very familiar to us –

though we may never have heard his music (or cared much for it) –

listen to the words of the last verse of his most recognizable tune:

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’.

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

It’s no ‘Sermon on the Mount’, but the sentiment is the same.

Something is happening that we may not recognize –

something that will reward the persistence of those

who believe that the world might be a better place if only…

God’s people have long shown that kind of persistence – with what might best be called ‘mixed results.’

It can be a frustrating experience –

living in constant hope of God’s deliverance,

alongside constant fear of inciting God’s wrath.

But God’s people have done their best –

calling on past glories whenever the future looks bleak,

crying out for the promised deliverance,

when present circumstances threaten to take away hope –

always trying to explain the present in terms of either the past of the future.

It is a challenging way to live – to see the world framed by the belief

that God has selected you for change – for the transformation of the status quo.

And then – this Jesus fellow appears:

grounded, it would seem, in all the cherished traditions,

aware of the promises that sustain God’s covenant people,

but not at all bound by the normal limits of time and timing.

He speaks of God’s kingdom present –

he uses familiar, even intimate language in prayer

and in his proclamation of the things of God.

His is a radical, upsetting voice that comes at a time of great distress and social struggle.

And in one shining moment –

even as the establishment makes plans to silence this voice –

his closest friends are given a glimpse into the kingdom as Jesus sees it.

On that mountain top, past, present and future collide

in a brilliant display of what might be – God is with us;

history comes alive, future hopes are realized –

God’s potential breaks through in a moment of revelation and devotion

that Peter, James and John can’t begin to comprehend.

So what’s the deal? What’s really going on here?

What kind of transformation is this, that brings the heroes of the past

in touch with the promise of the future

in such a real and alarming way in the present…?

It’s one thing to sing songs of change – to question the authority that holds you down

or rebel against traditions that no longer speak to you;

but here is activity of a different sort.

Here is a glimpse of the power of God

not to make the lame walk or the blind see

but to make time itself seem powerless.

God’s brilliance, God’s prophets, God’s voice

cut across all the known boundaries and come together in this one event.

Jesus orders the troubled trio to remain silent –

tell no one until the Son of Man [has] risen from the dead –

because this one glorious encounter of God

will make sense only in light of Christ’s Rising.

And so it is with us.

It’s the kind of thing that people are afraid to mention – these moments of insight, these visions of God’s grace, these troubling, but treasured times of certainty

because, in those moments,

God is more than an idea,

or a treasured memory, or a guiding principle

God is real – the experience of God that leaves the lasting impression.

We tend to keep these moments to ourselves when we have them:

Those times of our lives that God chooses to intrude

in ways that make nonsense of our sense of time and space.

We remain silent because no one would believe us.

Our faith, however, does not leave us confused on that mountain top,

or trembling in the shadow of departed glory,

nor even weeping at the door of a tomb.

Our faith brings us into the new, clear light of Resurrection.

The power of God, once new and strange and a little frightening

has now overcome our deepest fear –

the power that baffled and confused us

has destroyed our most persistent enemy, death.

That song of change no longer sounds strange to our ears,

it sounds triumphant,

and in God’s wisdom, by God’s grace, in Christ’s love,

it has become our song.

Transfiguration, 2009 – J. Lackie


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