Sorry I didn’t get this up yesterday! Long day – I hope everyone is continuing to dig out after the storm. xo
How Will You React?
This morning is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before we begin our Lenten journeys. This morning we remember the moment that Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain to pray and was transformed right in front of them. We sit, on this Sunday, in awe as we wonder what it might have been like to have witnessed this spectacular expression of Christ’s divinity. We try to picture Moses and Elijah – great prophets of the Jewish faith – standing next to Jesus, whose face had changed and whose clothes were suddenly a dazzling white.
We imagine hearing God’s voice booming through a cloud saying, “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him!”
I was racking my brain this week trying to come up with a good sermon illustration, but I kept coming up short. Trying to set the scene for such an elaborate scene like the transfiguration is not easy; that moment in time was full of all of the bells and whistles, smoke and fireworks.
I thought about asking the Trustees is they could build something so that I could hydraulically rise up from the floor behind the altar amidst smoke and pyro-technics, but – you know – Beyonce did that last week at the Superbowl. I didn’t want to seem like a copycat.
The story of the transfiguration – especially when paired with the passage in Exodus where Moses face shines as he comes down the mountain after his encounter with God on Mount Sinai – kind of speaks for itself. It truly was a remarkable event. It was not simply the transformation of a man named Jesus; it was the moment when the divinity and glory of Jesus was exposed, when his relationships with the law and the prophets of Israel was revealed.
Peter, James and John walked up to the mountain with Jesus; but once they got there they experienced God in a magical way.
When Moses came down off of the mountain it was clear in his face that he had just experienced God in a magical way.
How would you react if you experienced God in a magical way?
Would you be scared? Would you be excited? Would you be confused? Would you be willing to take a risk? Would you be ready to change the course of your life? Would you be open to letting it transform the life you are living?
That is not an easy question to answer; not when there are lives to be led, bills to be paid, children to be raised and houses to be taken care of.
Sometimes I wonder if – because it was so over-the-top, so mystical and so unbelievable in the world we are living in – we sometimes just see the transfiguration as a mysterious story and do not think that it could have any meaning in our lives today.
But it does.
Let’s look past the great and overshadowing cloud, the thousands-of-years-old Jewish prophets appearing, the literal transformation of Jesus and the sound of God’s voice. Let’s think about what – on a basic level – the transfiguration really was. It was – at the core of it all– an encounter with God.
Peter, James and John walked up to the mountain with Jesus; but once they got there they experienced God in a magical, but also in a very real way.
When Moses came down off of the mountain, it was clear in his face that he had just experienced God in a magical, but also in a very real way.
Have you ever experienced God in a real way?
Encounters with God do not always have to be magical; but they are always, always real. Encounters with God do not always have to happen on the top of a mountain; they can – and do – happen in our everyday lives. Encounters with God to not have to involve ancient Jewish prophets appearing before our eyes; they involve our friends, our families and even the strangers we meet along our journeys.
Encounters with God do not always have to happen in the stories of the bible and within the traditions of the church; they can happen in they lives that we are living today. The happen in random acts of kindness from friends and strangers. They happen in the smile of a child, in the ministries of a small church and in the laughter around the table at a family dinner. They happen when we feel that God is calling us to do something, to be part of something.
We are so lucky to be part of a Christian tradition that is so rich in history and tradition. But I often worry that we spend so much time living out those histories and traditions that sometimes we forget we are Christians who are supposed to be traveling our own journeys living out our faith. We cannot spend all of our time looking back; we may miss out on an opportunity to experience God right in front of us.
How would you react if you experienced God in a real way?
I was talking to a friend of mine who pastors a church in Florida this week. She – unlike me – does not follow the revised common lectionary when she preaches. She preaches sermons series that she develops, finds scriptures that work well with where her congregation is and what she wants to preach and then goes from there. She was describing one of her upcoming series to me and said, “See how much fun you can have when you’re not a lectionary preacher?”
She had a point.
That being said – the lectionary gave me the opportunity to do something really special over the past couple of weeks. When I first looked at the lectionary I thought it might have been a coincidence; but as I have prepared my sermons over the past couple of weeks I realized that there had to be something greater going on.
I started off the new year with something on my heart; I wanted to empower, encourage and push this congregation. I wanted to help you understand that you have the ability to be ministers, both in this community and in the world. I wanted you to feel as though you could be a vital part, not simply of sustaining this church, but of growing this church. I wanted to open your eyes so that you could see that your hobbies and your passions could be active and vibrant ministries. I wanted you to believe that you did not have to be in vocational ministry in order to live out experience God in real ways and live out God’s call for you in your life.
January 6th – I preached a sermon titled, “Epiphany & New Year’s Resolutions” and proposed that we make this year “the year of the Epiphany.” I said in that sermon:
It is not always easy to act out our Christian faith in today’s world.
But today’s world desperately needs us to act out our Christian faith.
January 13th – I preached a sermon titled, “Healed By The Waters” and reminded you that the waters of baptism heal us all. I said in that sermon:
We are thirsty for God’s grace. Our wells are dry; we are crying out to be flooded by the blessings and mercies of God. [But] to have faith is to allow yourself to be healed by the waters. So let yourself be healed – today and every day.
January 20th – We turned water into wine and I preached a sermon titled, “Turning Passions Into Ministry.” I said:
You do not have to be an ordained pastor in order to be a minister. God calls ordinary individuals to do extraordinary things every single day; God ignites a passion within people and the Holy Spirit … turns that passion into a tangible ministry that happens in this world.
January 27th – We celebrated our place in the Body of Christ when I preached a sermon titled, “We Are The Body of Christ.” I said:
It is not enough for us to simply be the Body of Christ. We have to act as thought we are the Body of Christ.
February 3rd – “The Formation Of Something Wonderful” – I asked:
How would we feel if we realized that our lives and our ministries were being carefully formed by God into something wonderful?
And then I said:
So pause often. Listen carefully. Trust fully. Discern prayerfully. Say “yes” wholly.
And see the formation of something wonderful in your life.
For the past five weeks I have had the opportunity to preach about what it means to experience God in your everyday life, to listen to God speak to you and to see where God is calling you in your life. We have been reminded that God calls us all into ministry and that faith happens outside of the four walls of the church. It has been an incredible opportunity, not just for all of us here, but also for this church and for its future. We have learned the importance not simply about honoring the past, but also about embracing the present.
And now we are reminded that God comes into our midst – sometimes in magical, but mostly in real ways.
The transfiguration marked a moment in Christian history when God appeared and Peter, James and John knew that something powerful was going to happen.
How will you react when God appears in your midst?
Perhaps the more important question is … what is going to happen next?
Blessings to you as you experience God in your life.
Thanks be to God!