I am loving all of my colleagues posts about Ashes to Go this morning! It makes me wish I lived in a more commutable place and could do something like that. We are having a labyrinth available in our Fellowship Hall tonight 6-7 and then worshipping at 7. I am looking forward to it!
Here is my sermon from last Sunday …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 7, 2016
The Transfigurations Of Us
By now, most of you have heard that longtime RCC members, Paul, Kathy and Cassandra Lumbra were on vacation in Mexico two weeks ago when Paul became very ill. He was hospitalized and eventually life flighted to Fort Lauderdale last Friday. I was able to fly down to be with them this week; I showed up at the hospital armed with the prayers and well wishes of a concerned church community (as well as an RCC prayer shawl, of course!).
I am sure that it will come as a surprise to no one that Kathy is down there making friends with the other families in the ICU. She and I were sitting together in Paul’s room and it seemed like she waved to every other person that walked by.
Eventually Kathy started telling me some of their stories. One girl was the daughter of a man who had complications from his cancer treatments while on vacation. One woman was staying vigil by the bedside of her estranged son, who had been shot. One couple was visiting their son, who was terminally ill. They, like Kathy, were all from out of town. They were away from their homes, their friends and their support networks. Their worlds had been turned upside down.
And yet, in the midst of their chaos, they found one another. They checked in with one other and kept track of how everyone’s loved ones were doing. They brought each other coffee and food. One family let the mother of the boy who had been shot stay at their hotel when she did not have a place to stay. They prayed together and they rejoiced when one person’s loved one was doing better, even if theirs was not. “It has become our own little community,” Kathy told me over breakfast on Friday.
I talk about “grace – unexpected” all the time, but it was real to me this week. I saw – in vibrant color – what it truly means for God to work through ordinary people in this world.
Outward and visible signs of outreach and hospitality continued as the day went on. The drivers of the shuttle between the hotel and hospital knew Kathy by name. The woman in charge of cleaning up breakfast at the hotel packed a bag of snacks and drinks for Kathy to take with her to the hospital each day. The nurses cared for Kathy as if she was their patient as well. Other couples staying at the hotel asked Kathy how Paul was doing when they saw her in the lobby and celebrated when she noted his progress. My phone never stopped buzzing, whether it was about monetary donations, fundraiser ideas or wonderful comments from our amazing Facebook prayer community back home.
When I preached on the body of Christ last weekend, little did I know that I would have the opportunity to see it come alive in such a marvelous and grace-filled way this week.
In fact, I was starting to wish that I had been scheduled to preach on the body of Christ this Sunday. After all, everyone coming together to do God’s work in this world is seemingly an easier scripture for many of us to try to live out in our lives than the one where Jesus takes his disciples up on a mountain, starts to glow and then is seen standing next to thousand-year-old prophets.
Which, I can pretty much guarantee, is not going to happen today.
This morning we heard the story of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration marks the last Sunday before the beginning of the Lenten season. It is the powerful narrative of the moment in time when Jesus transformed on a mountaintop in front of his disciples; where Jesus became radiant and appeared with Moses and Elijah and God’s voice was heard claiming Jesus as God’s son.
This can be a challenging story for us to think about. It is a miracle; and miracles are not always easy for us to believe in and understand, especially when they seem so far out of reach in our own lives.
My Tuesday morning bible study and I just started working our way through the gospel of John. John is – by far – the most mystical and miraculous of the four gospels. In two weeks we have made it through just three chapters as we try to pick apart and find meaning in stories that really do not make sense in our world.
And yet we are captivated; captivated by the stories, captivated by the miracles and captivated by the language that John uses to express God’s miraculous, yet unexplainable grace in this world. We are realizing that even though we may not understand these miracles or see them literally unfolding in our own lives the way they do in scripture, we need these miracles. We need these miracles to draw us into God’s story, we need these miracles to inspire us to see what could happen in our lives and we need these miracles to leave us wanting more.
I think this is what the story of the transfiguration can do for us. It can draw us into the suspense of what God can do, not only in this world, but also through us. It can show us – in a spectacularly visual way – that God comes into this world through people. This narrative, the transfiguration of Jesus, was the point in Jesus’ life where God and human nature intersected; Jesus was not only changed, but he appeared with Moses, the giver of the law and Elijah, the prophet. This proved that time and time again throughout history God has used people – ordinary people just like us – to do God’s work in this world.
In the same way that God used Moses and Elijah, God uses us, today. We may not appear with Jesus in a literal way on a mountaintop, but we are illuminated by the light of Jesus Christ when we live our lives according to the gospel. We become the hands and the feet and the voice of God to a world that is broken when we bear witness to a faith that is still alive and a Christian story that is still being written.
The transfigurations that we witness in our lives may not be as dramatic as they were for the disciples that day, but I assure that they are happening. God is using us – all of us – to minister to a world that so desperately needs it. Every single time we do something in the name of our faith we are appearing on that mountain, illuminated by the light that Christ brought into this world and showing the world that hope is still alive, that grace is real and that God’s love always wins. When we allow ourselves to be changed by our faith and reach out to a world that is in need, even is that means being scared or uncomfortable or pushed outside of our comfort zones, we are standing alongside the cloud of witnesses who came before us and laid the foundation that we continue to build on today.
The transfiguration reminds us that not only can we be changed by our faith, but that we have the capacity within ourselves to change others because of our faith as well. Lives can still be changed because grace is found at the intersection of God and human nature and that intersection is happening in our lives today.
I have been humbled by the way that people in this community have reached out to the Lumbra family during their time of need. It has proven to me that good does exist in this world, that the Christian Church is more than the negative stereotypes sometimes make it out to be and that our faith can still be relevant, meaningful and accessible in our lives. It has reassured me that our lives can be still changed by this powerful gospel narrative and that we can change the lives of others because of it as well.
So today, as you remember the transfiguration, let down your guard – and let yourself be changed. Remind yourself that for thousands of years, God has worked through ordinary people; and hold onto the bold and radical truth that today, God is working through you. Let your faith change you so that you can go out into the world and not only proclaim the Gospel, but live it out as well. Beam with the light of the glory of God and shine that light into the world. Let is shine so that you will continue to be changed, let it shine so that others will be changed and let it shine so that the world will be changed – one person at a time.
Thanks be to God!