A sermon preached at St. George’s Anglican Church Calgary, by the Rev. Clara King, February 10, 2018.
The Transfiguration of the Lord - Year B
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. Jesus goes up the mountain with Peter, James and John. He is transfigured before their very eyes. Peter is so astounded that he wants to build huts and live there for ever, but they come back down the mountain, and back into real life; back into Jesus’ journey to the Cross.
Actually, what they come back down to is a failed healing. They arrive back to the other disciples only to discover they’re being accosted by a very angry father whose son is possessed by an evil spirit. The father has gone to the disciples for a healing for his son.
But as Jesus, Peter, James and John draw near to the crowd, they realize that the disciples’ attempt at healing has failed. And Jesus, deeply frustrated, has to do it all himself. That’s what they walk into when they come back down the mountain. The opposite of the blissful glory up on the mountain top.
Let’s dig into this a little bit, before drawing some spiritual lessons for today.
Up on the mountain top, there can be no doubt that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God. There he is, surrounded by blinding light, dressed in snow-white robes. Moses and Elijah one on each side, speaking collegially with him; many stained-glass windows show him levitating over the mountain peak; and then the voice of God Almighty speaks, proclaiming him Son and Lord, and dispelling any lingering doubt Peter, James and John might have had. This is JESUS (in capital letters) – the MESSIAH, the Holy One of God!
No wonder Peter wants to build a hut and live up there. Wouldn’t we all like to live up there, where there can be no longer any doubt. Wouldn’t it be such a relief to live in the land of certainty, for ever and ever. No wonder Peter wants to live up there.
But Jesus knows, even if Peter doesn’t, that the plan isn’t to live up on the mountain top. Jesus has work to do down in the valley. And so they head back down.
Down in the valley, doubt and uncertainty are the order of the day. The other disciples are trying to perform a miracle, but, presumably, their own doubt and uncertainty is getting in the way. They can’t quite believe that they’re going to do it, cast out this demon. They can’t quite believe that Jesus is Lord so thoroughly that they can cast out demons in his name without him even being there.
But here’s the thing: Jesus is Lord just the same down in the valley as he is up on the mountain top. Jesus wasn’t more the Holy One of God up there than he is down here. Jesus wasn’t more the Messiah up there than he is down here. It just as true up there as it is down here, in the mess and muck of our lives. It’s just harder to see, harder to recognize, harder to believe.
Jesus challenges us to believe it: believe that what happened on the mountain top is true, and its true down here too.
Yesterday, a number of us had a mountain top experience. Maybe that’s not what everyone would call it. It wasn’t beautiful, or radiant, or overflowing with pure unadulterated joy. It was the second of our Healing Past Hurts workshops, and it was sad, hard, painful and difficult – and it was so, so glorious. It was a taste, an experience of what we can be together when we’re vulnerable, and honest, and courageous, and we’re not held down under the water by the difficult, terrible things we’ve experienced in our past.
We came together, and trusted Jesus to work in our midst, and we let down our barriers with each other, and Jesus showed us a vision of who we can become as a parish. Jesus transfigured us, just for a moment, showing us a vision of who he is helping us become.
Today, we’re down the mountain, and everything looks harder; everything seems messier. And it’s hard to see Jesus at work in our midst. Whereas yesterday, his fingerprints were everywhere, opening our hearts, helping us go deeper, helping us have faith and courage; today, the shining evidence of his glorious presence may be harder to see; may be harder to believe. Especially for those weren’t up on the mountain.
But it’s no less true down here. It’s no less true that Jesus is at work in our midst; it’s no less true that we can become that congregation in truth, full-time, not just on special occasions, and not just for some people.
Because the other part of the story is this: Peter couldn’t wait for Jesus to be Lord all the time, but there was still waiting to be done. It wasn’t yet time. I can’t wait for our parish to become fully what yesterday showed us we can become.
The promise is there; it’s in us to be that community: where our pains and our hurts don’t just hold us down, they strengthen and transform us; where we trust Jesus and open our deepest hearts to him and receive new life where there’s been death; where we stand in solidarity with one another, and become together more than any of us can be alone; where the words of faith we speak with our lips are lived powerfully, openly in our lives and in our relationships; where we believe in reconciliation and we experience it; where we believe in restoration and we experience it; where we believe in the Risen Lord working in our midst, and we see it and say Amen! Alleluia!
We can become that people. We can become that parish. God has set in our midst a promise, a vision. And now we come back down the mountain, and it’s no less true down here. Jesus is no less the Lord; Jesus is no less at work, down here, in our midst, every ordinary day of our lives.
It’s just harder to believe. And there’s still work and waiting to be done before the deep heart of this parish is revealed for all to see.
This Lent, Brian Way invites us to pray for the transformation of this parish. To pray for the healing that still needs to happen, and to pray for Jesus to work powerfully in our congregation. And to pray that this Easter, we truly experience the resurrection taking place in our hearts and in our lives.
For he is Lord, here, now, and for ever, whether he’s shining in dazzling robes, or hidden in the most mundane of our interactions; he is LORD.
May we see him here, in our lives, in our parish, in our community, and in the world. Amen.