Second Sunday of Lent: A Little Star

starparty_ngk0207_lgjpgBy Johanna Hatch

On the last night of finals my junior year of college, before the end of the school year scattered us to the four corners, my friend Liz and I decided to act on a whim and dance in the grass to celebrate the completion of another year. After coming home from the bar, we grabbed a stereo and a Sigur Ros CD and head out the back yard of the house we shared with nine other women. As the night stretched toward 3:00 AM, we turned up the volume, kicked off our shoes, and spun on the wet grass until we collapsed, laughing and exhausted. I didn’t have much use for religion at the time, but something had grabbed a hold of my heart in a way I couldn’t describe other than to say, “I just saw the face of God.” Liz smiled dreamily and said in her matter of fact way, “I know, me too.”

Years later, I am writing for a high school religious education publisher, trying to find contemporary songs to spark discussion on the weekly gospel readings. The transfiguration is a sticky Sunday to wrestle with, and I click through my iTunes, desperately searching for something that will connect.

A little star of brilliant hope in skies of black we are … You never knew because I never told you … This is me … All that I am … You will see … All that I have … This is me

“This is Me,” one of my favorite songs by the Brooklyn-based Girlyman, suddenly brought to mind the night of spinning and laughter, when it felt like everything was touched by God and I got to experience that love in a way I never had before. The transfiguration of Jesus, as described in Mark’s gospel today, is the most profound example of tearing down the separations between the human and the divine. As Jesus revealed himself to Peter, James and John in dazzling white, conversing with the prophets, and the booming voice of God again pronounces Jesus as the Beloved, Peter “hardly knew what to say” – but can you blame him? As I learned from my night of dancing beneath the stars, language often fails to capture the heart-rending surprise of finding Divinity to be something tangible, someone walking among us.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why a certain song relates to a certain scripture, why that song and scripture mingle in your mind with the memory of a transcendent moment with your best friend. But Mark’s retelling of Jesus’s transfiguration and “This is Me” and spinning barefoot on the grass beneath the stars all reveal for me the moment when the veil is lifted and divinity touches humanity in a very real way. It’s always surprising, as it was when the Creator of the universe becomes a tiny child, when the man who Peter, James, and John have given their lives to following show them his true identity as the Child of God, when for a moment you feel all of creation singing praise from the grass beneath your feet and you know you are loved beyond all reason.

Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer living in Wisconsin. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan. Her favorite thing about spring in the Midwest is the smell of melting snow.


One Response

  1. I love this, Joanna– I’m a bit obsessed with relating secular songs to religious stories, and I can relate to all of this post, especially the dancing outside face of God thing. 🙂

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