Epiphany Reflection: Encounters
It was fall of my junior year in college. I was more and more faced with the gnawing question, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” Goodness knows I’d explored enough stuff – majored in everything from pre-med to pre-wed. As the year started, I had just broken an engagement, sworn off men forever, and settled down to a life of study.
Despite my decision to ignore the male gender, I was not unaware of the ripplings that floated through the girl’s dorm that fall. Two young men who had transferred in from Big Ten schools had taken the campus by storm. Out loud the talk was they were uppity. They wore ties and sports coats and behaved with a Yankee sophistication that Southern ladies found distasteful. Secretly though, we were all intrigued by them. Having relaxed my study habits a bit and on a dare from my dorm sisters I asked one of the suave gentlemen from the East – the one we called the Abominable Snowman - to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance.
Fourteen months later, I’d graduated from college, had a teaching certificate and was married to the Abominable Snowman.
The person I met at the Sadie Hawkins Day dance changed my life. The direction of my life was forever altered by that encounter. I can’t begin to explain the mystery of that encounter but I would suggest that most of us have similar stories – stories of encountering people who have changed our lives.
The Transfiguration is another story of encountering. It’s the Gospel we read every year on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Jesus leads Peter and James and John up a mountain and on that mountain an astonishing thing occurs. Jesus is changed. He is transfigured. His clothes become dazzling white… radiant!
A cloud surrounds the group and a voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son. Listen to Him.” The disciples, scared out of their wits, fall to the ground. And Jesus, the transfigured Jesus, comes to them, touches them and says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be overwhelmed.” Alone, with Jesus, in that powerful encounter they are forever changed.
The Transfiguration. A mystical, life-changing encounter on the mountain.
Day after day we encounter the Christ. Those encounters come in all kinds of places and ways… the laughter of a child, a quiet moment of meditation, the touch of a beloved one, the splendor of a sunrise, the words of Holy Scripture, a table of good food surrounded by dear ones, the face of an unhoused stranger… on and on the list goes.
Those encounters change us just as the disciples were changed on the mountain. They call us to a new life lived in the Presence of the Christ… a life lived not for ourselves alone but for the lives of all those we encounter and for all of God’s people whether near or far.
As we approach Ash Wednesday and Lent, may our days be filled with recognizing and celebrating the gift of encountering the Christ and the Christ in all whom we meet.
The Rev. Susie Skinner is a retired priest and serves on the Board of Confluence: A Center for Spirituality in the Diocese of Missouri.
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