There is an idea that comes from ancient Celtic spirituality that there exist what are called “thin places.” It is believed that there is only a veil that separates this world and the sacred world. And at certain times this veil is thin enough for us to catch a glimpse of what is to come in the eternal world. A thin place is where one walks in two worlds – the worlds are knitted loosely; the differences can be discerned but the two worlds do become one. I believe we can read this week’s Gospel story of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as an example of these “thin places.”
The Gospel reading of “The Transfiguration” not only appears in Mark’s Gospel but also in the other two synoptic Gospels of Matthew (17:1-9) and Luke (9:28-26). This tells us that it is a pivotal event in the life of Jesus and His followers. We are told in the Gospel story that Jesus picks three of His disciples to accompany him up a mountain. This should be the first give away that something important is about to happen, for in the Bible mountain tops are where you encounter the sacred. In the transfiguration the disciples not only encounter the scared in physical form through the transfigured Christ, but they also encountered God in words. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.” We heard similar words earlier in the Gospels when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. These words signal to us Jesus’ relationship with God, a very personal and familiar relationship.
After the disciples had seen the transfigured Christ and heard the words of God; “… they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but Jesus.” The disciples had experienced a thin place, where heaven broke through, if only for a short moment. It was long enough for them to realise that they would rather stay there then be in “the real world”. They wanted to set up tents to stay in; “…it is good that we are here.” Unfortunately, the mountain tops, the thin places, are not where we live. They aren’t where we set up our tents, we actually live in the valleys. We have these mountain top experiences so we can bring them into our everyday lives, into our valleys.