The Journey is the Destination

When I was a callow youth, my sights were pretty low.  I thought that I would have made it if I had a 57 Chevy – you know the one, with the fins and all that chrome.  That and a girlfriend. 

At the moment I had neither.  I had a family cast-off 1950 Studebaker.  Hardly a chick magnet.  And my love life was butkus – going nowhere.

I remember the day I ran into an old friend at Cal State Long Beach.  After catching up, he, out of the blue, asked how my love life was going.  I had to admit.  It was non-existent.

He suggested that I might want to come to a meeting of the Wesley Foundation, the Methodist student group on campus. 

I told him that I had had it with religion.  The church was just a bunch of hypocrites.  In fact, the pastor of what had been my home congregation in Long Beach had come out against California’s fair housing law.  “Nah, not interested.”

My friend continued, “They have some pretty fine women who go there.”

“What time do they meet,” I skeptically responded.

And that was the beginning of a long journey back into the church.  In spite of my doubts, the campus minister who was appointed to shepherd the group introduced me to some of the theological giants of the twentieth century – a trip far beyond my then fourth-grade Sunday school understanding of the faith:  Tillich, both of the Niebuhr brothers, Kierkegaard, Bultmann, Barth and the Jewish theologian Martin Buber.

The Methodist Quadrennial conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, introduced me to Dr. Martin Luther King, the keynote speaker at that event.  And I was saved!  I thought, “If this is the church…include me in.”  I also met a lovely young woman on the bus, to whom I’ve been married now over fifty-seven years.  Now — What a journey it’s been – and still continues to be!

Today, we celebrate the Transfiguration – that episode up on the mountain where Jesus has gone to pray.  It is said that he took Peter, John and James with him, and as he prayed, he became transplendent –utterly surpassing the limits of ordinary experience.  In the sparkle he was joined by Moses and Elijah, talking with him.  The scene became ethereal.

“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jeus, ‘It is good for us to be here.  Let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he had said. 

And as a cloud envelops them, the divine command is heard, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Jesus knew that this moment, no matter how glorious, was not the destination, but only a signpost on the way.  A confirmation that they were all on the Way.  The Torah Way, where they all would discover their fulfillment in the Torah command, “You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.”  On such hangs all the Law and the Prophets.  And your very destination.  And that path will also go down through all the miseries and joys known to humanity. 

On that road you will also be Transfigured — in no small way are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”[1]  (Brother John Wesley would call it, “Going on to perfection.”)  And in the midst of the living of your days, the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, is revealed!

That is the meaning of these two men conversing with Jesus – Moses, the figure of Exodus living and summation of God’s gift of the Law, that we know how to care for one another, self and creation.  And Elijah, the prophet of End Time – which is to say that NOW is the time of fulfillment.  NOW is YOUR time.  No matter what is showing on the clock, this is the “Eternal NOW.”  Your moment, as in reality, is every sacred moment.

It was out of such quotidian moments that a new people was forged under the leadership of Moses and the promise of Elijah.  Testing and trials in forty years of wilderness journey brought forth the prophetic sensibility of love of God and neighbor, that they are one and the same — for God dwells in that person, that neighbor.  And, down through Jesus, to those who, in his vision, continue this journey: St. Francis, Dorothy Day, Harriett Tubman, Caesar Chavez, Delores Huerta, William O. Douglas, the Standing Rock protestors, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, William Stringfellow – all resplendent icons of transfiguration.  All with moral countenances gleaming as the sun.  All a cascade of moments upon moments as our journey is drawn to the final vision of God, the Omega Point, of End Time. 

And now Elijah’s mantle falls to us in our hour.  In all senses of the phrase, it’s our time to Rise and Shine.

We’ve intellectually known that democracy is indeed a fragile thing, but have not really experienced, until these past days – have not really experienced its existential peril.  With Jack Smith’s indictment of the Former Guy, we’ve come to see how tragically close we have come to its ruination.

And the idolatry of worship given the Former Guy by the base of his party is nothing less than that which Moses discovered upon his descent from Mount Sinai.

Can you imagine his abhorrence when confronted by the fawning, prostrated worshipers before a golden calf?!  Not the God who brought them out of slavery but a tinsel trinket of nothing – A shambolic idol of death and chaos, just as empty as that of the Former Guy’s personality cult, where all is subsumed to an insatiable desire for personal gratification. With this idol, as the first, you get nothing back in return.  Loyalty is a one-way street.  All is up for grabs: the Constitution, Rule of Law, family, friends, allies and business associates.  All laid before that orange-haired fraudulent altar to Nothingness.

Moses led the Children of Israel, through the Grace of God, into a more robust vision of the Grace of God, despite that apostasy and idolatry, despite the constant grumbling and failure of vision. 

And through those who have held to the journey steadfast, we are led into yet a more fulsome vision of America.

Now, you, too, are offered a hand up to board this Freedom Train.  Do not sit silent when those around you belittle and deny the severity of our nation’s most tragic hour. “Get on board, li’l children, get on board.”  We’re bound for Glory!   Silence is acquiescence. Silence is betrayal.

Support the heroic work of those working on our behalf to affirm the truths we hold as self-evident:  Fani Willis in Fulton County, Georgia, investigating election fraud (and now ready to file a fourth indictment); their Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who refused to “find” — read “manufacture” –11,780 votes – as the Former Guy whined, “which is one more than we have because we would have won the state.” 

We must honor the faithful and daring work of the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, now preparing charges against that group of fake electors, poised to steal the election from the voters of her state — voters who actually, and fairly, chose the real, legitimate president of the United States.  Yeah, the one we have now – thanks be to God.  She has held fast to the responsibilities of her office despite death threats and the need for a constant security detachment everywhere she goes.

Stand in support of that countless number of election workers, those whose names you will never know – except, maybe those publicly defamed by the Former Guy – those who, for faithfully carrying out their duties of office, now fear for their lives and those of their families, and who been ruined by his public scorn and incitement — and by the terrorism of his mob of followers with their lies and vigilante violence.  All part of the journey of America in these later days.  Our days!

So, here we are, on the precipice of the most dangerous political polarization since the Civil War – an attempt to overthrow a legitimate election and the resulting government of the United States.  Nothing less than treason in my book!  Lincoln hanged some such seditionists; I’d settle for a long stint of house arrest.

Hear just some of the charges:

“Shortly after election day, the Defendant also pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results. In so doing, the Defendant perpetrated three criminal conspiracies:

“a. A conspiracy to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371;

“b. A conspiracy to corruptly obstruct and impede the January 6 congressional proceeding at which the collected results of the presidential election are counted and certified…

“and c. A conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241. Each of these conspiracies—which built on the widespread mistrust the Defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud…

Count 1: the defendant…did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with co-conspirators, known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government.

And this is just the start.  Go online, warm up the Google machine, and read the entire number of counts being leveled.  It staggers the mind.  You can’t make this stuff up.  We all saw it live, in living color on our television screens.  And replayed and replayed ad nauseum.

It is NOW your turn to pick up the leadership of Moses as we move onward into a land of freedom and dignity, where all can thrive. 

You, as a young student, hand over heart, pledged loyalty to this union, never perfect but ever perfectible; it is now your moment to put that sentiment into action – to affirm in word and deed that no one is above the law.  We are all accountable to the common good.

As my wife says: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”  This is our leg of the journey.  We’re up at bat.

As with Moses and Dr. King, we may not get to that Promised Land but we have been to the Mountain of Revelation, the Mountain of Transfiguration.  We have seen the Promised Land.

Sometimes, that’s how I feel about our House of Hope.  I might not get there, but I’ve seen the vision.  And hopefully, if we work at it and stick together, we have a team who will bring it into reality.  That’s our promise to all who enter our doors: “Where hope becomes reality.”

On that journey we, too, are transfigured into the image of the Risen Christ.  That’s where a scattered, rag-tag group of fugitives from Pharoah’s wrath were forged into a People of God.  That, too, is the destiny of all of us of the Jesus Movement.

In his fellowship, we shall discover who we are and what we’re called to be.  As they’d say at the YMCA pool, “Come on in.  The water’s fine.”   Amen.

[1] II Corinthians 3:18, New King James Version

St. Francis Episcopal Mission Outreach
2855 Sterling Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92404

August 6, 2023 – The Transfiguration

“The Journey is the Destination”
The Rev. Dr. John C. Forney

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99

2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:38-36

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