Material for Worship on Transfiguration Sunday

This Sunday, our reflection has been written by Kate Sainsbury, a Lay Reader, the founder of the Appletree Community and a new associate member of the St Mary’s Ministry Team.

“There’s no such thing as magic!”
Or is there?
Walking in a wood once, I suddenly found a sycamore helicopter spinning in the air below my finger, seemingly without support. The spider’s thread that connected us was invisible at first glance. I was with my son, Louis, who is profoundly brain-injured.
“Look, Louis!” I said, lifting my arm to raise the spinner up towards his face, into his field of vision. “It’s magic!”
The delight of this event put great emphasis into my voice, an energy that broke through Louis’ lack of understanding, to lodge a new phrase in his memory.
He looked from the spinning bit of green to my face, his eyes fixed on mine, shining with reflected amazement and love.
“It’s magic!” he repeated.
In Louis’ language, which lacks consonants because of damage to the 7th cranial nerve, what he said sounded like …. i …. a … i ….
He began to smile. His whole body took it up, he rocked backwards and forwards from his waist, he became happy in front of my eyes, all of him, his face, his body, his whole being. Mum was happy: Louis was happy. We existed in this moment, united in our love for each other, triggered by an encounter with something beyond understanding.
The incident, and the word, were lodged forever as a shared memory for us both. Even today, when we go back to the phrase, ‘it’s magic!’ we get a little bit of the feeling we had that day.
I can never know what Louis thinks, can never hear his explanation, from the inside. But the outward evidence is all I need to know that we are talking about the same thing: encounter in love.
It was both magic … and, with the scientific explanation of the spider’s thread that I had brushed against … NOT magic.

Our Gospel reading today, tells us a story of something that is MAGIC. Take a moment to listen to Margaret reading Mark 9.2-9. (The image is from the Vie de Jesus Mafa series.)

This Transfiguration follows Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus’s teaching that leadership as Messiah means suffering, death and rising again. That had been followed by Jesus’ invitation to the crowd and disciples to take up their own crosses, to go into uncertainty and suffering, trusting God would bring about new life through them.
Our story was an intimate gathering. Peter, James and John, were taken up a mountain by Jesus, where they knew that Moses encountered God. What happened next was as amazing as Moses’ own experience had been.
In front of his friends, Jesus’ was transfigured – he became shining white, they saw him talking with both Moses, the lawgiver, God’s messenger, and Elijah, the great prophet.
It was MAGIC.
The veil of time and place slipped aside, the three disciples found themselves existing in a new dimension, for which Peter had no words. This was holy space, they were drawn in and at the same time, terrified. Peter, the practical one, cast about to pin down the awe of the moment. ‘Shall we build some booths, Lord? temporary temples, like those we make at our festival, to contain this holiness?’
James and John – called elsewhere ‘Sons of thunder’ – say nothing. Perhaps their tempestuous nature makes them more used to living with uncertainty. Then a cloud comes over them, just as a cloud had descended on Moses. Out of the cloud God speaks to them, an echo of God’s address to Jesus at his baptism. ‘’This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
How did they make sense of that?
Perhaps it took years, the events of the last days of Jesus’ life, his death, resurrection and Pentecost, for them to learn that the God who is Father to Jesus, was father to them too, that each of them, was beloved, each was a part of the whole.
How do we make sense of the mystery?

At the heart of this story I find certainty, the power of love, a guarantee that each of us is precious. That matters to me, as Louis’ mother. I find the Transfiguration a story of hope, a vision of a just world coming into being through God’s love. It powers me to pursue a vision of a long-term home for Louis and others with disabilities. At Appletree Community, Louis’ calls us to his table to be fed by the God of love, who asks each of us to participate in living well, equal with each other, loved equally.

The vision, grew out of need. When Louis’ care home shut there was nowhere for him in Scotland. Its particular shape follows from asking ‘WHO is Louis?’ recognising his sociable nature, his wish to live with others, the benefits for staff of being able to support one another. The Court of Protection approved my plan to use Louis’ medical negligence funds to buy a house. Care will be given 24/7 by professional carers from Scottish Autism, funded by the local authority, who economise through overnight care shared amongst three.

The house is a converted steading, with plenty of space for shared living, indoors and out, and self-contained ensuite bedrooms for all. It has the security of a south-facing, enclosed courtyard and gardens. Its wooden floors and high ceilings make a calm atmosphere. It is close to the A9 at Aberuthven, semi-rural, yet accessible. Alongside is a barn for developing future day activities.

Partnership with Scottish Autism, will be crucial. We seek to encourage long-term commitment in staff. It takes a while to learn Louis’ language. When he is understood, communication is a pleasure. In the hospital now, where he is not heard, he resorts to shouting or protest. Developing a centre of excellence for Louis and his house-mates, will contribute to a sea-change that is going on all around in social care in Scotland for the better. As Bishop Ian says of work inspired by the Holy Spirit, ‘Find out what’s going on and join in!’

In December 2019 we held our first Appletree Christmas party, where over forty people joined us, friends, neighbours. We sang carols, prayed, enacted the journey to Bethlehem in search of the star. We met our second resident, Ewan, who came along with his family. He felt so at home, he went off for a sleep. A guest, Laura, who played the part of Mary, has become one of our Patrons.

A year after lockdown, there is much to be thankful for: building adaptations progress; a core Scottish Autism staff team is getting to know Louis and Ewan. Relationships with wider society grow, we are supported through prayer, newspaper coverage, donations, invitations to speak. We participate in arts groups and United Nations young people’s groups. We have academic links with the School of Christianity and Autism at the University of Aberdeen, policy links to Scottish Government. PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society), a charity for people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities advocates for us.

We are supported and blessed by Bishop Ian, who sees us like a new way of being church, a diaconal movement, with Benedictine roots, where ‘to work is to pray’. We are prayed for by local churches. We move, with wider society, into an unknown future, one step at a time, listening, giving thanks, trusting God, holding to values of justice, equality, joy and love. It’s magic!

On this Valentine’s Day, you are invited to listen to Mary singing ‘Love is the touch of intangible joy’ by Alison M. Robertson.

Love is the touch of intangible joy;
love is the force that no fear can destroy;
love is the goodness we gladly applaud:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the lilt in a lingering voice;
love is the hope that can make us rejoice;
love is the cure for the frightened and flawed:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the light in the tunnel of pain;
love is the will to be whole once again;
love is the trust of a friend on the road:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the Maker, and Spirit, and Son;
love is the kingdom their will has begun;
love is the pathway the saints all have trod:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Here is an opportunity to pray with the words of St Paul’s famous chapter on Love before we bring to mind all those who need our prayers today.

Loving God,
Help us to be patient; help us to be kind; help us not to be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Help us not to insist on our own way, not to be irritable or resentful. Help us not to rejoice in wrongdoing, but to rejoice in the truth. Help us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

Let us pray for all who are lacking in love,
for those who don’t receive the love they need,
for those who cannot show love to others.

Shine your love upon us, Lord,
so that we might reflect it out into the world.

Help us to live out your life in our actions,
especially towards those we find hard to love.

We bring before you all those in positions of authority and influence …

We pray for those who are sick in body or mind, bereaved or lonely …

We pray for the church all over the world and especially for the Appletree Community.

May love be the force that drives us and the power that binds us,
we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

More of Kate’s story …

Louis enjoying a winter’s walk. Louis is currently detained in a locked hospital unit because there is nowhere else for him in Scotland. He was recently pinned down and injected, because, even after two years, there isn’t sufficient understanding of his language to take a gentle approach. He is traumatised by such incidents. Louis has the understanding of an 18-month old.

Louis’ friend, David, photographer and artist, my godson. For eight years, Louis and David enjoyed communion services together, adapted for additional needs, called ’Comrie Special Friends’. David co-led worship at the last national Lay Reader conference 2014, with Bishop Bob Gilles and was a guest worship-leader at TISEC. We shall start ‘Appletree Special Friends’.

The bedroom wing undergoing total remodelling, with soundproofing and new walls, creating two ensuite bedrooms, one wheelchair accessible, with ensuite carers’ bedroom

A local estate gifted us five huge boulders that will stand in the courtyard, their solid weight a reminder of time, of matter. Their grouping will express how we are all dependent on each other and on forces greater than ourselves. To me they seem to say, ‘Yes we can!”