Sermon for the Feast of Transfiguration - Feb 26 2017

Sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration,
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
February 26, 2017
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Exodus 24:12-18; Psalms 2 & 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

Matthew has placed this event at a time shortly after Peter has questioned Jesus’ first prediction that he would die and rise again.  It recalls Jesus’ baptism – and reminds us Jesus is both the Son of God and the Suffering Servant.[1] 

Now Peter and James and John went with Jesus up a high mountain where they saw Jesus bathed in light, with Elijah and Moses as well – an astonishing thing – and they heard the Voice that said, “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

And they cast themselves to the ground in fear and trembling.

There’s a world of difference between such an event, and the quieter message we usually hear, if we hear it all, in this place.  No great mountain, hardly even a rise at all.  No thunder, no bright lights and glowing people here.  On a scale of 1 to 10, what happens here might be a 2 or a 3; while Peter and the others would probably rate their experience as 11.

There are times when I simply feel overburdened and over-stressed. In fact, I want to ignore the fact that I have a million and one things to do, so I pick up a book or turn on the tube, or wile away the hours on social media – and wind up feeling over-burdened, over-stressed, tired, and even a tad depressed.  I’m supposed to practice self-care, but some days, it’s all about resentment.

And then I walk in here, and I sit down and soak up the silence, or, as I did this morning, start talking to the people – you! – who have chosen to come to church today, and I start to come alive again.  I am so very grateful to be here.  I am so grateful to be in this place, with you, with God, where hundreds of people have lifted their voices in prayer and in song and in trust and in love.  It’s not quite the same as seeing Jesus transfigured on the mountain top, but it does at least hint at the possibilities.

I am reminded, here, of why I’m here: for just this reason – to renew, refresh, start again, rejoice again, sometimes even cry a little (it’s a great stress reducer).  And sometimes, occasionally, I even sense a response from God.  Nothing dramatic, nothing earth-shattering, though occasionally perhaps a bit ego-shattering…

I’m not in charge, I hear.  I’m not responsible for the state of the world, much less the universe – someone else has that in hand.  Who am I to think it’s all on me?  Just do what needs to be done in this moment, on this day.

And if I can find a way to delegate a few tasks, all the better!

We can be so very busy and distracted that we might miss what God has for us in any given moment or day – it might be a word of comfort, a word of caution, a word of guidance, or even a request or a reminder.

I don’t know what was in your minds when you came here this morning; I certainly don’t know what you experience here, unless you tell me some of it.  But maybe my experience sounds a bit familiar to you.

A small thing, coming to church.  But that doesn’t make it any less significant, if indeed what we encounter here – WHO we encounter here – is the same God manifest in Jesus Christ as Peter and James and John saw that day.

My call to the priesthood was in a small suburban church.  Our congregation was maybe 30 people on a Sunday.  No stain glass, no soaring roof, no fancy furnishings, not even a real organ.  No place special, except for the people who came there – government employees, real estate people, lawyers, store managers, dads, moms, grandparents, children, retired folks – come together to worship together, to be together, to be community together, to learn and sing and pray together, just as we are and we do.

My call to the priesthood was made when two others and I were putting out the flowers for the Easter service on the Saturday before Easter.  There were no great flashing lights, no rolls of thunder, no visions of beings of light.  All it was, was a quiet voice, in my left ear, with a cryptic declaration: “This is where you belong.”

If I hadn’t been up behind the altar putting the carnations on the gradeen – that shelf where we display the flowers and the cross – I don’t know what I would have concluded it meant – I might have missed it altogether, because I was talking to Kevin at the time it came.

Sometimes, though, this is how God conveys to us – not just with blinding light and rumbles of thunder, but with a push on the heart, a whisper in the ear, a word from a friend that “hits” you where you find you needed it most.

The Transfiguration was a grand spectacle, earth-shattering, vital and life-giving.  The three disciples were over-borne, falling to the ground in shock and amazement.  If they stayed, they would never be the same.  Their lives changed in that moment and for ever.

They needed this powerful vision to give them the strength to go on – and it almost wasn’t enough for them even so.  Peter, you’ll recall, denied even knowing Jesus not once, but three times.  And all the disciples fled when he was crucified, except some of the women.  Who hadn’t even experienced what Peter and the others did on this day.

Sometimes we need a Transfiguration; but most of the time, we are simply and quietly offered the daily bread we need, the reassurance, the stability, and the strength to get on with our lives, loving God, loving neighbor, in hard times and easy times, in a place that feels like home, a place of prayer, praise, worship, of sorrow and of rejoicing, a daily place, a holy space, a church, our church, Christ’s church.

You are welcome here.  May God feed you here.  May you know God here.

 

 

[1] “The Gospel of Matthew.” M. Eugene Boring, New Interpreters Bible, Vol VIII, 1994, Nashville: Abingdon Press, p366.

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