Just When You Least Expect It
Transfiguration (6 August)
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore moments of epiphany (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and one reader to read Mark 9.2–8.
- Find an example of an empty space in your own life where you go to get away from it all that you can tell the students about in the assembly. It might be a space in your home, going on a country walk, to a park – there are many options.
- Think about a moment of epiphany you've had and the effect it had on your life that you can relate in the assembly.
- Have available the song ‘We can fly’ by Cafe del Mar and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Leader: Sometimes I need to get away from it all – away from the preparation, marking, shopping, news, people . . . even sometimes my mobile phone. I need to create empty space.
Recount where you yourself go to get away from it all.
So it was with Jesus. In a busy life of teaching, listening, healing, defending himself from criticism, there were times when he needed to get away from it all. Listen to this account from Mark's Gospel to see where Jesus chose to go.
Reader: Read Mark 9.2–8.
Leader: OK, so Jesus wasn't entirely alone, but he chose the people he wanted to go with him – Peter, James and John. They were his closest friends, the ones he trusted and wanted to get to know him better. The point is that they were alone, away from all the other demands on their lives. The place Jesus chose was the top of a mountain.
Possibly they sat down and admired the view. Maybe they were chatting. Then, suddenly, everything changed.
As they looked at Jesus, his friends literally saw him in a different light. He shone with a supernatural light. He was transfigured. Then Jesus was joined by two other people – Jewish heroes from the past. There was Moses, the man who wrote down the Ten Commandments, and there was Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, who foretold the coming of Jesus. Finally, a voice came from nowhere commanding them to take seriously everything Jesus said.
Peter, James and John didn't know what to make of the experience. They were scared, but realized this was an important event. They would never again see Jesus in quite the same way. They'd all had what is known as an 'epiphany'.
An 'epiphany' is one of those moments when the penny drops, when something makes sense for the first time, when you see things in a new light. They can be life-changing moments.
Recount your personal moment of epiphany and the effect it had on your life.
Epiphanies don't come every day. They're impossible to predict and can't be planned for. We can, however, do something about creating the space in which they might happen.
Sometimes I think we must live in the noisiest time in history. I'm not simply talking about volume, I'm also thinking of the sheer amount of sound and visual input we have all around us. We're bombarded by music, TV, texts, the Internet, videos, posters, lessons, conversations, even books and magazines. These demand our attention. They stimulate our minds and lead us on to other thoughts and investigations. We never seem to stop. An epiphany doesn't stand a chance!
Time for reflection
Reader: I quite fancy the idea of letting the penny drop every now and then. So how do I create the space for this to happen?
Leader: I'd start by making a space in the schedule for it first of all. By that I mean blocking out some time on a specific day during which nothing else is going to happen. Whatever anyone asks you to do, take part in, be around for, you say, 'Sorry, I've got something else on.' Space in our lives needs to be made a priority, needs to noted in the diary.
Next, I think it's a good idea to make a space for it away from people. I know Jesus took three friends with him, but my experience is that other people, without realizing it, invade your space. If I want time to think, listen, meditate, then I need to be on my own. The only exception I'd make would be if I want to bounce ideas off someone else and get their reaction.
Finally, and most importantly, I'd suggest you turn your mobile phone off. Sometimes I think mobiles are the biggest space invaders of the twenty-first century. It's impossible to get away from them and they're so demanding, so tempting. If you truly want space, then the mobile has to be silent.
Reader: So what happens next? I'm in this vacuum, waiting for something to hit me.
Leader: Some people like to simply sit and admire the view. Others prefer to walk. Some let their minds wander. Others use simple meditation techniques, thinking first about themselves, then close friends and family and, finally, the wider world. It's amazing how things then begin to fall into place, like pieces of a jigsaw. Occasionally some surprising idea arrives. Often, the time spent in empty space simply helps you feel relaxed and positive about life.
The 6 August is the Christian festival of the Transfiguration, when Christians remember the experience Jesus' friends had on that mountain top. Why not copy that day in your own way by creating a bit of space and see what happens.
Thank you for the hours of our lives and all we can fill them with.
Remind us of the importance of also being still and letting the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.
Help us to create some time and space this week.
‘We can fly’ by Cafe del Mar