Between Mist and Ashes

Listen to this week’s Devotional here.


Author: Chris Braudaway-Bauman


“Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Matthew 17:1-2


Ten years ago, on Valentine’s Day, one of my dearest friends died. Susan was also one of my closest colleagues in ministry. We were friends for 20 years. We worked together nearly every day for 15 of them.


On the first anniversary of her death, I invited several of our mutual friends to have dinner at her favorite restaurant. We were so glad to be together to remember and celebrate her. We were also so engaged in our conversation that it took us a while to realize it was taking too long for our food to arrive. More than an hour had gone by since we placed our order. Our server went back to the kitchen to check. The manager of the restaurant came out to apologize. He explained that our order had been misplaced and our meals were only now being prepared.


When the food was finally ready, the manager led a procession of servers from the kitchen to our table. It felt like church. It felt like communion. After our plates were set in front of us, he then announced to us that there would be no charge for dinner. Surprised, we started to laugh. Suddenly, it seemed plausible to all of us that somehow, by God’s ingenuity, Susan had orchestrated this whole thing – that she was the one who misplaced our meal ticket so that we would linger together longer, or that she had just taken out her American Express card and picked up everyone’s tab, or that she had pulled the young manager aside and in her gently persuasive manner explained to him the meaning of extravagant hospitality.


I remember feeling an overwhelming urge to get up and go to the kitchen to see if Susan was there. Of course, she wasn’t.


And of course, she was. She was with us in this communion meal, in our laughter, in our love for her and hers for us, in the life we were blessed to share, and the life which is hers now in eternity.


At that moment, it also dawned on me how this group around the table had been transfigured. Months earlier, these same people were suffering, grief stricken, as we planned Sue’s memorial service. But on that night, joy had returned, and we were delighted. Our beloved friend was no longer with us, but for a moment, by God’s grace, the door between this world and the next was opened and we caught sight of her.


This past Sunday the disciples followed Jesus up a misty mountain where suddenly they saw him shining like the sun, pulsing with light, a light so bright that even Moses and Elijah, dead men from the other side of heaven’s door, could be seen. Some scholars believe that the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration is a resurrection account tucked into the Gospel narrative to give the disciples a reassuring glimpse of what’s ahead. In the church calendar, this story also sits on the edge of Lent.


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and our journey with Jesus to the cross. It’s a day to remember death, especially our own mortality, a day when we proclaim the truth that one day we shall return to the dust over which God first breathed life.


Today, as we linger between Transfiguration and Ash Wednesday, we hold life and death side by side. We remember how God’s love and light transcend this world and yet how this world is also so immersed in them that at any moment, if we are ready for it, open to it, God will show up in a shining moment, surprising us in a way that reminds of how good this life is, and how long love lasts.


Life is both fleeting and eternal, and the love that is forever is enough to sustain us all along the way.


Prayer:  Eternal God, support us all the day long until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen. 


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You are warmly invited to join us for worship on Ash Wednesday, February 22, at Noon in the Chapel and 5:30 pm in the Sanctuary and on YouTube. These quiet services of prayer, confession, Scripture, song, the sacrament of Holy Communion, and Imposition of Ashes mark our entrance into the contemplative season of Lent. For those who would like to linger after the evening service, a simple supper prepared by our Board of Spiritual Life will follow in the Standish and Heritage Rooms.



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