And now in the category of “better late than never,” here is my sermon from LAST Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday. We had a Mardi Gras Sunday at the church that day (check out the pictures on our Facebook page!) and I talked in my sermon about the Transfiguration reminds us that our lives truly can be transformed by our faith. I hope yours is, as well!
Here’s the sermon. Enjoy …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 11, 2018
Transforming The Way You See The World
The story of the transfiguration is one that always brings up a lot of good memories for me. I candidated at this church on Transfiguration Sunday seven years ago. Easter was late that year, so Transfiguration Sunday was the first weekend in March, which just happened to be the weekend of our annual Spaghetti Supper and Dessert Auction.
That Saturday, after a meet and greet with the congregation in the morning, everyone piled into Fellowship Hall for the supper. I remember walking into the hall that night and feeling like it was SO big. I might as well have been walking into Fenway Park that night; it was packed and just felt huge.
At the time, the task ahead seemed so daunting. There were so many people! How was I ever going to learn everyone’s names, I wondered to myself? Where was I even going to start? What if this church needed more than I had the capacity to give?
Fast forward to a few weeks ago; I was setting up for our monthly Taizé worship. I walked into Fellowship Hall, this time empty, dark and quiet, and I thought to myself, well it does not seem so big anymore.
It is amazing how, over time, God changes the way we see things.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before the season of Lent begins. The Transfiguration is about a moment in time when God changed the way people – ordinary people – saw something.
Or more specifically, God changed the way they saw someone: Jesus.
We heard the story out of the Gospel of Mark this morning. Leading up to this, Jesus was traveling, performing signs and inviting people into his ministry. While in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection and then told the crowd that had gathered around him and his disciples that if they wanted to be one of Jesus’ followers, they needed to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the top of a high mountain and he was transformed, right before their very eyes. His clothes were a dazzling white and he was not alone. He stood alongside side Elijah, a 9th century BCE prophet that can be found in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, and Moses, a prophet who led the Israelite slaves out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus. A cloud came over them and Peter, James and John heard God’s voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Then suddenly, Elijah and Moses were gone; and it was just Jesus standing there.
What an incredible moment that must have been for Peter, James and John; where God changed the way they saw Jesus, showed them the undeniable divinity of Christ and demonstrated the power of God’s love in this world.
Up until this point, they all knew there was something special about Jesus. How could they not? When John baptized him, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus then cast out evil spirits, healed the sick, spoke in parables, fed thousands of people with mere morsels of food and walked on water.
But, in this moment, they saw him differently. They understood the Gospel and what it meant for their lives on another level. Their lives would never be the same.
How, in your life, does God make you see things differently? How does God help you understand the Gospel and what it means for your life on another level? How is your life changed?
Perhaps it is in how you spend your time and money, who you interact with or what you say and do. Maybe it has to do with the career path you have chosen or the values you instill in your family. Maybe it means making different priorities than those around you. Perhaps God will open your eyes to see the needs of others more prominently than your own wants. Or maybe God is simply working on you, as an individual, reminding you that you are loved, you are cherished and you are made whole.
The freedom in having faith comes from letting our lives be defined, not by the earthly stuff, but by the grace God gives to us. If we allow God to, God can transform the world we are living in.
And the crazy thing is, the world, itself, might not change. But we, ourselves will change. The way we view the world and the way we live in the world most certainly will change when God gets involved.
The Transfiguration reminds us that God-sized transformations are happening all around us. Sometimes they can be found in the small things in life and sometimes it is in the big things in life. But in order to see them, we need to follow Jesus up that mountain, we need to open our eyes to witness the presence of God and we need to believe that what we are seeing is real and true.
As much fun as Mardi Gras is, it is not just about having an excuse to throw a party in church; it is about marking the end of one season and the beginning of another.
Lent begins on Wednesday. This season leads us on a journey where we experience the story that defines our faith. Resurrection is the reason that we gather; from this comes the radical truth that death did not and does not have the final word. It is because of this story that people can discover hope, find strength, extend forgiveness, show compassion and uncover grace. Sometimes this goes against all logic and reason, but, as Christians, we know that love always wins and we live our lives bearing witness to this great testimony.
We see things differently.
Certainly, this does challenge us at times. It is hard to look beyond our earthly lives and see the glory God is shining upon us. But this story reminds us that God is always with us, constantly transforming the pieces of our lives, whether we are on the top of a high mountain or down here, just doing day-to-day life. God is helping us to see things differently.
I see the church much differently now than I did seven years ago on that cold March night in a crowded Fellowship Hall. The task no longer seems daunting, per say; but enriching, grace inspiring and, quite frankly, a lot of fun. I see breakfast and suppers, community events and completed mission projects. I see confirmation classes, bible studies, hospital visits and board meetings. I see a church filled with people who are not only willing to go along with my crazy ideas (like Mardi Gras Sunday), but who usually show up with food, as well. I see a church not only with a rich history that I was able to learn about, but also a vibrant present and a hopeful future I am apart of. I not only know people’s names, but I know their stories, as well.
Only God could have done this. Only God could have transformed our ministry together.
Today I wish you many blessings on your Lenten season. I hope our Mardi Gras celebration brings the changing seasons to the front burner in your life and reminds you to mark the beginning of Lent this week, on Ash Wednesday. I pray that, at some point during this Lenten season, your eyes, minds and hearts will be opened to the ways God is working in your life, to the ways God is transforming your life.
I want your lives to be changed by your faith. I want God to help you see the world differently.
So may you, like Peter, James and John, stand in awe in the presence of Christ. May you see the ancient scriptures come alive in your life as you seek to live out God’s word. May you feel and know that God is with you, in the extraordinary moments and in the ordinary ones. May God transform your life. And may you see the world differently.
Thanks be to God!