(Matthew 28: 16-20)
At first it feels like a circle closed,
a journey completed,
this reminder of the mountain where
Peter, James and John saw the Lord transfigured,
speaking with Elijah and Moses,
the voice that thundered from the enclosing cloud
filling the disciples with fear.
It is Christ himself who speaks to us here,
the Lord crucified and now resurrected,
proclaiming his authority, and for a moment
the apostles might be tempted
to think the mission, surely, is accomplished,
goal achieved: God reigning through Christ;
and perhaps the eleven look around the peak
to see if Moses and Elijah will again appear
for congratulatory clasps of the hand.
But the circle has not closed; the journey
has not finished, it is open-ended
as the arching sky and as the road below
that leads to the distant horizon; open
as the mission that here Christ gives us,
as the promise he makes to be always with us,
from now to the end of days.
For disciples must be made
in and from every nation,
taught Christ’s ways and words and sent
anew to serve the men and women of the earth.
See how the slanting sun, moving across
these Galilean hills, takes its seat on the rim
of the wider world, inviting our eyes
to seek, not the shades of prophets past,
but the shimmer of the new world to come.
See how, as we lift our heads in the gaze
that follows Christ’s lifting from the earth,
we discover no mystifying cloud,
nor faces from only scriptural glory.
Rather see the shapes of the yet-to-be
appearing in the echoes of his words:
There we see Paul, in conversation with Peter;
and there is Barnabas, and Phoebe, and Lydia
speaking with Thomas, who will travel to India;
we can see Boniface, and Patrick, and Columba,
standing beside Francis and John and Charles;
a little further over: Dorothy Ripley who laboured
for slaves in America; Mary Slessor, who served
so faithfully in Nigeria; Elizabeth Fry, who
did her work close to home; just a few
among hosts of other men and women
come to this summit, hearts receiving
Christ’s commission for them; whose
long shadows shine, but in whose shadow –
look, just over here – stands another
familiar figure who, like them, will be helping
to re-shape the world
that so needs our obedience to Christ’s love:
It is you.