Saturday, February 21, 2009

Last Epiphany Yr B

This story of transfiguration is one of my favorite stories. Jesus brings Peter and James and John to the mountaintop. I imagine getting to the mountaintop was quite a hike, maybe not even accomplished all in one day. This was a place apart, wilderness, quiet. No cell phone service. I wonder if when they got there they rested, they pulled out their bread and meat that they had wrapped in cloth, they ate a meal together. And then Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, and there appeared with Jesus are Elijah and Moses, all talking together.

Now, Peter, James and John have heard their entire lives the stories of Moses and of Elijah. We just heard part of the story of Elijah from the book of Kings. Moses and Elijah are the prophets, the heroes, of their ancestors. Their stories live in the realm of legend, it’d be like coming face to face with Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, or Madeleine L’engle. Who wouldn’t wish for them to stay, to bask in the glory of their greatness, their wisdom?

This is truly a glimpse of glory. A mountaintop experience. Peter, James and John are witnesses and participants in this amazing time out of time. You may have had an experience that you may describe similarly, a particularly meaningful experience of worship, with music and people who helped you to transcend time. In fact, much of youth ministry is fashioned with this experience in mind. The point is to bring young people to a place where they may intensely experience God’s presence, that they may intensely experience the Holy Spirit. The youth weekends that I’ve been a part of, called Teens Encounter Christ are of this sort. The last youth talk of the weekend is always about life after this intensely spiritual experience. After spending every waking hour with your friends, after laying bear your heart, after possibly turning your life over to Christ, after dancing and shouting your love for Jesus, how do you return to the classroom on Monday, how do you to come down off the mountaintop and deal with life in your world of ordinariness. You may say as Peter says, let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. You may want as Peter wants to hold on to that experience, to be able to revisit it whenever you want, to come back to it whenever you need a shot in the arm, or even to escape to it when the world just seems to hard to handle. But the experience won’t be put into a box. And yet that doesn’t stop you from striving to replicate it, and measuring every subsequent religious experience by it. But that can’t be done, not only can’t it be done, it prevents us from experiencing God in the moment, God in the mundane, God in the ordinary, which is where each of us life most of the time.

The glory that is shone forth in this story of transfiguration is ultimate glory. It is wonderful, it is exquisite, and it is not where we live or where we are to stay. In the transfiguration we see that what we think about time and how God acts in time are different. Peter, James and John, and you and I as we look in, see time all at once, like God sees it. If we were to construct a time line, the story of Moses takes place somewhere around 1500 years before Christ, Elijah about 850 years before Christ. And yet, at this event they are all there together. God shows forth God’s glory, God shows that life with God is without limits. It is like the Eucharistic moment, it may be comfortable and calm, it may be nourishing and refreshing, it may be inspiring and illuminating. It is filled with the people we love and who love us. We really want to stay, but we can’t stay in it, and we can’t repeat the exact moment. But it will give us the ability to persevere, from it we are sent out into the world to do the work we are given to do. We are sent out into the world to live our lives and to bring peace and reconciliation and healing to a broken and fragmented world.

The glory that is shone forth in this story of transfiguration is a touchstone. We may return to it, but we can’t control it, and that can be rather disquieting, actually terrifying as reported in this story. We come to worship and sing God’s praises; we come to find stability in an unstable world. We come to hear the story of our faith that has not changed over time. And yet God’s word and our worship are not comfortable, they are not static. God’s word and our worship are growing and changing, becoming the creation that God has intended for it. The glory that is shone forth should cause us to be terrified, to go down the mountain and confront the comfortable and disrupt the status quo. The glory that is shone forth results in the casting out of demons, the reordering of social status and kinship, the arrest and torture of the one who bears the Good News, the inauguration of God’s kingdom on earth with Jesus Christ God’s son.

The glory that is shone forth in this story of transfiguration promises to accompany us into our mundane lives. We carry that glory into our work and our school and our play. It becomes the spirit that inspires and creates us; it becomes the life that gives us life. It is that which is in the eyes and souls of those whose paths we cross, it is in the respect and dignity with which we treat everyone we meet.

The glory that is shone forth in this story of transfiguration pushes us out into the world so that we may get going with God’s mission in this world. God’s mission is not about preserving the status quo; God’s mission is not about sitting in these pews. God’s mission is not defending the tradition; God’s mission is not doing things the way they’ve always been done. God’s mission is not putting Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in a box. God’s mission is of healing and reconciliation. God’s mission is about putting fractured souls back together in this broken and fragmented world. God’s mission is about loving and serving your neighbor, especially when we don’t feel like it, especially when it is uncomfortable, even when it seems impossible and down right scary.

The glory that is shone forth in this story of transfiguration is like what a wise man once said, “stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.” That wise man is Bono, of the band U2. Get up, out of your comfortable places, and get involved in what God is doing.

The Lord has shone forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

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