Transfiguration, St. James Presbyterian Church, the Communion of Saints

St James Upon entering the office of St. James Presbyterian Church (409 West 141st Street, New York, NY), I saw pictures of the congregation's history on the wall. One in particular caught my attention and the memories flooded back.

The folk of St. James had graciously invited me to preach and celebrate communion on the Sunday known as the Transfiguration of the Lord. It was my first opportunity to preach in the Presbytery of New York City. I am open to other invitations.

St. James Presbyterian Church is only a mile or so from where I live so I chose to walk – a drizzly day – but I needed the exercise.

During the service, first-time visitors were recognized – people from Norway, France, Italy, and Spain attended the service. I pointed out that I too was a first-timer. I had come all the way from Morningside Heights.

I also confessed my lack of geographical knowledge. As I walked up Amsterdam, I realized at about 130th Street that there was a bit of a climb involved to reach the church. Still that seemed fitting on the day when Matthew's gospel contained the story we know as the Transfiguration.

With help from Sister Joan Chittister, I explored the Transfiguration as moment when Jesus invited and called and challenged his followers (us included) to live our faith in God by loving God and loving and serving one another in concrete ways whether we are on a mountain or in a valley.

Lenton But before I began the sermon, I had to reflect on the picture in the office that had grasped me. A simple picture – my photo does it little justice – that carried profound meaning for me.

It is a picture of one of the former pastors of St. James – the Rev. Lenton Gunn, who died too young in 2002.

For a number of years, the Rev. Gunn had served on the advisory committee to the Presbyterian Hunger Program. For several of those years, I served with him.

The Rev. Gunn was a pastor and a deeply committed follower of Jesus who did justice, loved kindness, and walked humbly with God. It was an deep honor and privilege to stand in the pulpit where he had served so faithfully and well for so long.

It was also a profound reminder that we share the journey of faith with sisters and brothers of all places and times within that great mystery we call the Communion of Saints.

Those whose lives we once touch, remain with us always. Thanks be to God.


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