Sermon for St Mark’s, 6 August 2017
Transfiguration: A Great Love Story
Jesus’ disciples suffer from unfair criticism in the Church. There is a common disdain about these who walked with Jesus but did not recognize from the first that he was Messiah. They saw miracles, heard his teaching, knew him intimately – the New Testament says they still didn’t get it. I have heard preachers point out how ignorant they were, the implication being that we would have recognized Jesus right away. I had a professor in seminary refer to Peter and the others as “dumb bunnies”. Unfair.
In St Luke’s Gospel this morning, at least three of the disciples did see who he was. It was intimate – just four: Peter, James, John with Jesus in a remote mountain place where Jesus went to pray. At face value, these three had a divine vision of Jesus as Messiah; at the least, it dawned on them that he truly was the one sent from God. Prayers answered; hopes fulfilled; huge relief, but little awareness of how it would change them. This moment, this discovery, the Church calls “Transfiguration”.
Come round now to our day, and your own faith practice. Transfiguration is the spiritual process of becoming who we truly are, created in God’s image. The matter is really ours – becoming who we are as bearers of God’s image.
The questions is – will we claim our deepest truth, the essential goodness of a soul of the same substance of God? Imagine you as God’s image?
That is a personal choice. Made in your own heart and mind. It is not about perfection. It is about choosing the grace already in your spirit, and when you waver or go off course, return and claim again that “God-ness” in you.
It is a familial choice – to share that grace with those closest to you, teach and live good news, and if you are raising children, hold that as standard for their quality of life. Here is a place to practice our power to bless.
It is a communal choice. We are to live Christ’s good news in our relationships, in our work lives, among our neighbors, and in the decisions we make as brokers of the common good.
It is about being light in our world, and while we acknowledge shadows and darkness around us, we do not become afraid. Remember St John’s affirmation – “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.5)
A word about shadows and darkness: The Church has marked the Transfiguration of Jesus the Christ, each year on 6th August, today. The Church is annually recalled this day to our conviction that Jesus is the anointed of God, to bring us again into the heart of God and commission us as light for the world. That tradition began in the mid-1400s, and it continues in our worship this morning. August 6th.
There is another observance of 6th August. On the Feast of Transfiguration, a day for Jesus, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. That day, and three days later when another bomb decimated the city of Nagasaki, the end of World War II was hastened, at the cost of more than 120,000 civilian and combatant lives.
Trinity Church in Bend used to host, for two weeks in summer, Japanese students who were on an English language immersion program. In March 2013, we suffered an arson attack, and we were unable to host the students that summer. The day of Transfiguration is etched in my memory because that summer after our damaging fire, when there were still burned beams exposed and no roof at Trinity, the principal and the head teacher of the Japanese academy sending students, came to Bend. They brought gifts and pledges of support to our wounded congregation. The day I met the Japanese academics and received their support? It was August 6th, 68 years to the day of the bombing, the Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration.
Bill Bryson, in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, remarked that “the human is the only animal that can kill at a distance.” Friends, the shadows are real, and they find root in our own souls, but remember: hate must be taught. Only love is original.
Spirituality means working out your own transfiguration, living your true being. May I offer a few affirmations for your transfiguration?
You are chosen. You are beloved, and your life is part of a great love story. Begin here.
Spirit confirms that Jesus is still among us, as close as our breath.
Only love is original. Hate must be taught. Work toward unconditional love.
The road to freedom begins in forgiveness; but practice conditional forgiveness.
The way of truth and love always wins out. Grief and trouble, like storms, are temporary, and will pass.
The Kingdom of God is among us, even though as yet incomplete.
When you make your own journey home, Someone knows you are coming.
The Church observes Jesus’ transfiguration on 6th August, but it is also the disciples who were transfigured. “Jesus only looks different to his disciples. It is Peter, James and John, who are really transfigured, their eyes now open to see Jesus as he really is, clothed in light and revealed as the Son of God.” (The Rev’d Jason Cox, St Columba’s Church, Washington, D.C.)
May you find and cherish such moments of transfiguration, moments of clarity which allow you to see the world in a new light, as God’s sacred workplace and playground. May your transfiguration allow you to see the creatures of God as beloved. No exceptions. Amen.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.