In the year 2000 I organised a parish pilgrimage to Israel. Now one of the obligatory stops is Mount Tabor, the reputed sight of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Mount Tabor is a steep sided conical mountain and the road that goes up to the summit is narrow and twisting – so narrow and twisting that coaches can’t go up there. At the bottom of the hill is a fleet of Mercedes taxis that ferry people up and down the hill.
As you can imagine at busy times this can create quite a bottle neck at the bottom. The day we were there we arrived at the same time as a coach party of Russians and a coach party of Americans. Us and the Russian party had arrived slightly before the Americans, so we had three large groups of people converging on these few taxis to take us up. It was hot – it had already been a long day.
The first sign of trouble came when the American pastor, a big fat clown, started remonstrating with the taxi drivers, trying to push his party to the front of the queue and then shouting and bad mouthing us and the Russians. Well I don’t think he knew we were English and could understand him and we heard him tell all his party what bad, bad people we all were, pushing our way to the front. This unleashed a tirade from our Palestinian guide Bassam, (and me I’m afraid), and there was then a bit of pushing and shoving and glaring and swearing on all sides with a few bemused Russians joining in as well.
You know its only just occurred to me, all these years later, the complete incongruence of what had happened and that it is in fact a parable in itself. We were all queuing to see a place where a man shone white, illuminated from within with the light of God’s spirit, and we three coach parties of Christians were shouting and swearing at each other, all trying to push the others out of the way.
Us Brits, the Americans and the Russians were Peter, James and John, not getting it, not understanding, not enlightened at all. Nothing much had changed in 2000 years. We still don’t get it.
In my own spiritual journey I now see that far from worshipping a man who was lit up with the spirit of God, we please God by following Jesus and should seek to become enlightened ourselves. That is our true worship.
The way forward for mankind is not to be beguiled by bearers of divine commands like Moses or bearers of divine prophesy like Elijah but to shine ourselves with the light of God.
We are to be Moses and Elijah by being the divine command to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves and by being divine prophesy by putting those words into action in our thoughts words and deeds.
In retrospect It now makes me smile Zen- like at these three parties of irate, disgruntled, partisan, swearing pilgrims travelling up the mountain to gaze.........at what? An unlovely modern catholic church on the top. The really spiritual thing up there was the view and the relative peace that you get from these places.
Christianity suffers I think from displacement. Instead of worshipping someone who was whatever you think he was or is, the way, the Jesus way, is to be the change we are looking for. That’s what we completely missed at the bottom of Mount Tabor. We have to be the enlightened change we are looking for. There is a Christian prayer, I’ve forgotten where it comes from, but which says.....
“Lord change the world, and start with me”. Amen.