Sermon for February 14, 2021 Transfiguration “Only Jesus”
I am constantly making notes of things I hear and read. I jot them on whatever scrap of paper is closest, though I am learning to dig out my phone and make the note there, where I confess it is easier to find and to this point has not been washed. So a few weeks ago I hear this: ‘Jesus makes us what we are not, different than what we are now’. I have pondered that simple and intensely interesting comment since I first heard it.
We have been following the life of Jesus as he begins his ministry; his baptism, temptation in the wilderness, calling the first disciples, teaching, casting out demons and healing the sick. Today we encounter Jesus in a moment of transfiguration with Moses and Elijah. A particularly poignant moment, rich with meaning and connection. One that places Jesus within the context of history and stepping into a future that will change the world.
I would like to focus on the idea that Jesus makes what we are not and how we navigate the realm of the profound and transcendent.
One of the challenges of an encounter with Jesus is that for all the world we do not look different. There has been no external make-over. We still wear the same clothes, same hairstyle, same mode of transportation. We look the same and yet we are changed. When Jesus called the first disciples who were al fishers, they walked away from the boats and nets and followed. Inside they changed, they knew it and Jesus knew it and that made all the difference. Soon and over time family and friends knew it too. They looked the same, still had the same childhood stories and yet there was a newness, a something that they were not and I suppose something that they now are. As my dad would say a certain ’je ne c’est quoi’. An, I know there is something but I cannot just put my finger on it kind of knowing.
In moments when Jesus encounters our life we are changed, perhaps we understand differently, we have a broader less ego focused view of what it means to love and be kind to all people. And that helps us shape our view of history and our attitudes toward people, all peoples, today. It is not as though we are physically changed, we will still recognize ourselves in the mirror. The difference is on the inside and our internal view, touched by the Spirit dramatically alters our exterior view. It is on tending to this interior heart, soul and mind that cracks open the places for dramatic shifts to happen.
One moment Elijah is standing there and the next he is charioted away by God. One moment Jesus is on the mountain top alone and the next accompanied by Moses and Elijah in a dazzling array of white. The disciples had a sense that they were in a holy moment but as yet did not have the capacity to be anything but who they were. They were men of action, of seeing and doing, and that is what they did. Saw this glorious event and now felt compelled to do something.
For most 21st century Christians this is the way we operate. We see something and want to do something, and I might add that is laudable. The teaching today is a nudge from Jesus to go deeper. To spend time with the moment. Not to try and understand, or solve or fix but to just be. And that is, I think the hardest work.
Have you ever witnessed a stunning rainbow? At first it is just…awe, then the voice says, yeah that happens because the sunlight refracts through water particles in atmosphere causing a spectrum of colour as an arc in the sky…and the moment of awe is gone. Does it matter that sunrise and sunset are completely inaccurate descriptions of what happens, we just enjoy and are in awe of the moment. I do not wish to discredit good science but there are times when we just need to be present to a moment…not try to fix it or explain it away.
Barbara Holmes writes about worship in predominantly Black churches, but I think the Spirit works in all worship: “In this ordinary Sunday service, something has happened and we are changed. The worldly resistance to transcendence that we wore into the sanctuary has cracked open, and the contemplative moment carries us toward the very source of our being. In the midst of worship, an imperceptible shift occurred that moved the worshipping community from intentional liturgical action to transcendent indwelling. There is no way to describe this shift other than to say that “something happened.” During this sacred time, the perpetual restlessness of the human heart was stilled and transformed into abiding presence. Time shimmered and paused, slowing its relentless pace, and the order of worship no longer took precedence for those enthralled by a joy unspeakable.
This is the contemplative moment, the recognition that each and every member of the congregation shares the same angst over the troubles of the world and the need for reunion. . .. Those who listen know the Holy Spirit is in control.”
My prayer on this Transfiguration Sunday, this Valentines Day that you discover in ordinary moments the extraordinary and then come to a deeper knowing that…God is.