Hi friends! Happy Shrove Tuesday!
We had our big Mardi Gras celebration at the church on Sunday – it was so much fun! Decorations, brass, food and a mocktail bar – it doesn’t get better than that!
Our Ash Wednesday Worship service is at 7PM tomorrow. If you are in Rehoboth, I would love to see you there! You do not have to get ashes imposed if you would just like to enjoy the service.
Here is my sermon from Sunday – the story of the Transfiguration!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 23, 2020
It Is Good For Us To Be Here Today
Happy Mardi Gras!
Or shall I say, Laissez les bons temps rouler, which is a Cajun French saying that means, “Let the good times roll,” and has become a Mardi Gras mantra over the years.
Of course we know that today is not actually Mardi Gras – the real celebration is on Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Tuesday marks the closing out of one season before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Today is the Sunday before it all begins – Transfiguration Sunday. Transfiguration Sunday is the day we remember Jesus taking Peter, James and John up on a mountain, where he is transformed – transfigured! – in front of them, appearing with Moses and Elijah, and a voice is heard from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.”
The story of the transfiguration is a challenging one for preachers, I think partially because it comes up every year the Sunday before Lent starts and so, like Christmas and Easter, there is a little bit of pressure to put a fresh spin on it, year after year. It is also a challenging one, because it is a kind of a hard story to interpret on a practical, grassroots, “this is how I am called to live out my faith” kind of level.
It is one thing to read a story about Jesus feeding the multitudes and think to ourselves, “Hmm – maybe if people are hungry, we should feed them.”
Or to read a story about Jesus healing someone – even in a miraculous way that we, ourselves, might not be able to attain – and remember that we are called to be agents of healing in our own community, even if that means something as simple as praying for someone, offering to drive them to an appointment or giving them a prayer shawl.
Or to read a story about Jesus reaching out to a marginalized person – say, perhaps, the story of the Good Samaritan – and wonder how we can minister to people who are living on the margins of society.
It is a whole other thing to read this story and wander up a mountain in the hopes that perhaps Jesus might appear with a couple of Old Testament prophets and God will speak to all of us through the clouds.
On the surface, it appears that there is not a whole lot of practical application here.
Every year, without fail, I find myself participating in a conversation with clergy – whether it be on the internet or in person – about how to approach the transfiguration in a sermon. And not that this was the sole purpose behind our new Mardi Gras Sunday tradition or anything, but I have to admit – filling the sanctuary with an explosion of purple, green and gold, festive music and the promise of delicious food afterwards does, in fact, distract from the possibility that my sermon might be terrible.
So there is that.
When I read the story of the transfiguration this week, the one thing that really jumped out at me were Peter’s words to Jesus in verse four: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
“Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
Y’all, it is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to be in worship, to be together as a community and to mark this transition in the church calendar year as we prepare to enter the Lenten season.
There is something about this story of Jesus’ transfiguration that connects us to our own baptism. When Jesus’ appearance changes, God’s voice is heard from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because this mirrors so strongly the story of Jesus’ baptism that we heard a few weeks ago, where Jesus emerges from the water and a God’s voice is heard from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.”
It is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to connect this story back to Jesus’ baptism and to remember, as we prepare to enter the Lenten season, that the living waters of baptism have washed and continue to wash over all of us.
That we do not have to be perfect.
That we do not have to have all the answers.
That grace is powerful and that second chances are possible.
That God is, that love is real and that the Gospel will change the world.
It is good for us to be here today to remember our baptism through this story.
It is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to hear Jesus’ words, “Get us and do not be afraid.” It is good for us to see in verse six that the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration fell to the ground and were overcome with fear and know that we are not alone when our initial reaction to something that we do not understand is fear. But it is also good for us to remember that that we are called to live in faith, not in fear; to remember Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid.”
It is good for us to be here today, because there are many things going on in all of our lives that are scary and unsettling, but when we come together and we remember this story we know, with certainty that we are not alone and that we do not have to be afraid.
It is good for us to be here to live into our faith and not into our fear.
It is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to remember that the story does not end on the top of the mountain, but with the disciples coming down off of the mountain, with strict orders not to tell anyone what they saw immediately, but after the resurrection.
It is good for us, as people living on this side of the resurrection, to hear this call. It is good for us to remember that, as amazing as those mountaintop experiences are – those moments in our faith when we feel like we are on top of the world – we have to come down off the mountain and both experience and talk about our faith in the real world. We have to proclaim the good news of the resurrection in a way that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all people. We have to live out our faith, not solely within the vacuum of our church community, but out in the world where it intersects with the realities of our lives.
It is good for us to be here today so that, together, we can come down off the mountain.
Y’all, it is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to be here today and to meet one another, wherever we are on our journey through life and faith. It is good for us to be here today to proclaim God’s goodness in the midst of the messiness and the confusion of life. It is good for us to be here today and sing with the saints. It is good for us to be here today and break bread together. It is good for us to be here to mark the end of one season in the church year and prepare to enter Lent together. It is good for us to be here today and remember that transfiguration can happen in our own lives. It is good for us to be here today so we can grow in our faith and strengthen our community.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Let the good times roll.
Thanks be to God!