Last Epiphany, The Transfiguration, March 3 2019, Yr C

Audio  Last Epiphany, The Transfiguration, March 3 2019, Yr C
Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a], Psalm 99

They saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him, Moses and Elijah. And later, after Jesus ordered the vile spirit gone from the young boy and handed him back to his father, they all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness, God’s majestic greatness. Two stories, one on the mountaintop, one down on the ground, two stories in which people experience God’s greatness and God’s glory, two stories that show us who Jesus is. This is my son, my chosen; listen to him!

But you and I live our lives somewhere in between these two stories. We don’t live on the mountaintop of glory, and we don’t live in the valley of suffering, we live on the plains and the prairies, around the corn fields. And as we know, the plains and the prairies, the corn fields, have their own kind of beauty, a kind of beauty that you make friends with, a kind of beauty that you grow to love, a kind of beauty that transforms you. Sometimes the beauty of the land is not self evident, sometimes the appreciation of the beauty of the land is acquired. Some would even think me crazy to speak of the beauty of these rolling fields and the great plains, those who live in great cities, those who live in great mountains or great deserts. I like to visit mountains and deserts, but I love the quiet beauty of these rolling hills, even when others think this is fly over country.

We live our lives in the in between, we live our lives in the ordinary, not on the mountaintop of ecstasy, not in the valley of suffering. We do live our lives in the flatland of the world. And, we are easily seduced by the world into believing that what we see is all we get. We work and we play and we go to school, and sometimes we are seduced into believing that the marketplace is important. We begin to believe that life is about making money, having success, owning lots of things, living in a big house. Sometimes we even begin to think that life is all about us, and eventually we may even begin to believe that being successful is more important than being faithful, that having many and beautiful things is more important than having a meaningful relationship with the people in our lives and with God. This is the flatland, it is place that cannot have meaning, and it is a place that carries no joy, no truth.

We are called to live on the plains and the prairies, where the sunrises and sunsets are glorious, but unless we spend the time and make the space to really see them, we only see the flatland of the interstates. But this is what transfiguration is about, seeing with new eyes. The word transfigured is an interesting word. The Greek word is metamorpho, and it means to transform, kind of like the metamorphosis that happens when a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. Used in this way in the gospel, it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. The inside reality of Jesus is being God’s son; in this story the outside reality is glory. This is what our gospel is about today. Matching the glory on the outside with the reality of the inside.

So what is our reality? The reality is that we are God’s beloved and we are marked as Christ’s own forever. As I say it, it seems easy, on the mountaintop it seems obvious and clear, and yet the message in the flatland of the world is so very different. In the flatland, our worth is measured by our job, how much money we make, who we know, what we can get, what our house looks like. We are scared into believing that we are not good enough, so we have to buy a particular kind of clothing, and lotion, and diet supplements, to be adequate. We have to be young, sexy, thin. We have to be fixed if our bodies are not perfect. We have to erect fences around us and rules to keep others out. But none of this is real.

What is real is that we are loved absolutely, abundantly and unconditionally by the God who is among us, walking by our side, holding our hand when we need our hand held, carrying us when we can no longer walk, being with us in the mess that is sometimes our lives, suffering and dying so that death does not have the last word, so that death does not win. What is real is that God shows us this love in the midst of the glory, and in the midst of the suffering.

It is on the plains and the prairies of our lives that we are transformed, where the metamorphosis happens. It is on the plains and prairies of our lives where Jesus walks with us and shows us the way, where what Jesus does in his life and in his suffering and on the cross matter. Peter wanted to immortalize Jesus’ transfiguration along with Moses and Elijah with three dwellings; he wanted to enshrine the experience. He soon realized that’s not what transformation was about, he soon realized that transformation was about who you are and what you do all the rest of the time, on the plains.

Spiritual practice and moral discipline are a thankful expression of our transformation; they are our response to being transformed. We are in the world as God’s new creations. Spiritual practice and moral discipline are also an opportunity to see and hear God more clearly. Traditionally those who follow Jesus have given something up for Lent. You know, you give up chocolate or you fast or you give up something that you are used to doing. Now the idea is not to beat your self up and it’s not to lose ten pounds. The idea is to create space in a crazy, busy life, so that we can see and hear God. We are to get rid of the rubble and the refuse so that our sightlines are clear, and that takes some giving up of stuff’ whatever the stuff is of our lives. And more importantly it calls us to do something very positive.

I invite you to create space in your crazy busy life. I invite you to do something positive. There are many opportunities for you here at Trinity. Wednesday noon Holy Communion, Wednesday night soup supper and program, Friday morning bible study, Sunday morning education and coffee hour. I invite you to create space in your crazy busy life, to open your eyes and see the beauty of the ordinary, the beauty of the plains, the breath of God on the prairie, the Spirit rolling in the fields.

It is on the plains that we live as the new creations, it is in the very ordinariness of our lives that we live in the freedom that is the promise of resurrection and new life. Jesus’ transfiguration and our transformation are the birth of spiritual and moral discipline for us. Spiritual practices help us develop new holy habits; new ways of seeing the world and what God is doing in the midst of it. What we really hunger for, what we really yearn for, what we really want as people of faith, is transfiguration, transformation of our very cores, and that comes from God, not from the world.

We begin on Wednesday with the ashes that remind us that we are loved, the ashes that remind us of who and whose we are.