Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Transfiguring Visit from the Governor

As a member of Christ Episcopal Church, I am proud that my parish has during its storied history played host to numerous dignitaries from state and national government (click here for a brief history of the presidents who have worshipped here over the years) and religious leaders from around the world (nothing is quite as thrilling as sitting down in our pew one Sunday and discovering that Archbishop Tutu -- whose daughter was one of our clergy residents for two years -- was sitting two rows in front of us).

Today, that tradition was continued as we welcomed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as our guest preacher. When I first heard that the governor would be attending, I was naturally skeptical; he and I don't agree on nearly all political issues, and I wasn't knowledgeable enough about his background to fully understand how he could be an effective preacher. However, I did make the decision to attend the service where he was visiting, and I'm glad I did.

The two lessons appointed for the day -- the transfiguration of Moses as he descended from the mountain following receipt of the commandments, and Jesus' transfiguration in front of Peter, James, and John -- were the central part of the governor's talk: experiencing the moments which transfigure our lives. His is indeed a remarkable story, a story of someone who, during his first year at Harvard Law, when he was surrounded by so many men and women who knew exactly what they were going to be doing with their lives, took a year off to live and work as a volunteer among the people of Honduras. He discussed many of the lessons he learned during his time there, the advice he was given, and the humility that he witnessed each day.

One story in particular touched the entire congregation; on the Christmas morning during his year in Honduras, he accompanied a priest as he visited some of the more remote areas of his parish to conduct services and visit old friends. In one house, where the children were so obviously victims of malnutrition, the priest accepted a gift of fruit and vegetables from the father -- food that the family most certainly could have used for itself. When the governor became angry at the priest for accepting the food from the family who had so little, the priest said, "You must be very humble to accept a gift like that from a family like that." In reflecting on that in the years since, the governor said, he derived a great lesson from that statement: had the priest refused the gift, he would have deprived the family of experiencing one of the greatest things that binds humanity together -- the ability to give. That Christmas Day, which the governor said has remained the most powerful he has ever experienced, also provide him with a major transfiguring moment in his own life and helped to propel him down the path as Civil Rights attorney, mayor of Richmond, and into his current job.

It was an amazing homily (given entirley without the benefit of prepared text or notes) and made a very strong impact on everyone in attendance. In fact, it was a packed house; whoever came up with the old saying that churches are only packed on Easter Sunday and at Christmas failed to include Sundays when the governor shows up!

So my question to you is this: have you considered the moments that have transfigured your life?

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