Sunday, March 2, 2014

Epiphany Last - Transfiguration Sunday sermon by The Rev Dcn Pam Bright: The 'Possible' of God'

Lectionary: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Preacher: The Rev Dcn Pam Bright

As I sat in my living room yesterday, listening to beautiful piano music and looking out the bay window, pondering what God would have me to say to you today, I was filled with a deep and profound sense of gratitude that I had a sermon to prepare.

It wasn't that I felt I was being given something amazing and profound to say. It wasn't the excitement I feel, and sometimes share with you, when I get to preach on a lectionary that is new to me. No, it was happiness that came with the realization that it was one of the rare times I've been able to be still and quiet and just be, for more than a few exhausted mindless minutes at the end of a long day.

See, last week was a week, one of those weeks, in a month that has been made up of those weeks...I know most people assume my work in Child Protective Services is never particularly easy but recently it has been especially difficult. Too many complex cases with seemingly no good solutions, negative media attention, a plethora of complaints from clients and their families, touchy personnel's all a bit of a blur in my memory as my staff and I have run, sometimes quite literally, from one thing to another in an attempt to keep up, while striving to be responsive to a multitude of demands and to make the best possible decisions with limited time and sometimes little information.

Clearly, I need some time away! I need some time off! I need a mountain top!

Mountain top experiences, moving, amazing, transformative experiences of the Divine such as we hear described in today's Gospel, are something we all desire and seek, especially when we are tired and drained. This lesson, the Transfiguration, is always the Gospel reading for the last Sunday of Epiphany, and some think its placement in the lectionary is intentional-to give us one last high, one last glimpse of glory, one more mountain top moment, before we enter Lent.

But the story of the Transfiguration is about more than one last mountain top before we begin our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross. Epiphany is about the revelation of who Jesus is, and of what his coming among us means. The lesson for the first Sunday after Epiphany is always the baptism of Jesus and as I said earlier, the Transfiguration is always the last. These two, combined with all the lessons we hear in between challenge us to answer for ourselves; just who is Jesus and what does his coming mean?

What have we heard in the last few weeks? What has Jesus said that gives us insight into who he is?

We've been told if we follow, we will be taught how to fish for people, how to reach others and help them remember they too are children of God.

We've been told we're God's light and God's salt, offered to a world in great need of the illumination and flavor of God's love.

We've been told that it isn't enough to just change our actions but we must allow God to change our hearts and our minds as well.

We've been told as God's children, we are to love like God loves, with agape love, loving those who do not love us and even loving our enemies.

And today, Jesus stands on a high mountain, with Moses and Elijah, his appearance changed so much that his face shines like the sun and his clothes are dazzling white. A voice from a bright cloud says 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.'

This is my Beloved; listen to him.

The voice terrifies the disciples, they are overcome with fear, but Jesus comes to them, touches them, and tells them to get up, and to not be afraid.

Perhaps fear is some of what we feel. Maybe hearing-and actually listening - to what God in Jesus tells us we are to be and how we are to live as children of God - is a daunting, frightening thought for us, of an impossible task, a way of being we fear we can never achieve.

Maybe it is the listening itself that we find hard and scary. Like Peter, busy in his desire to build booths, like me with my crazy, non-stop life -to stop and be still and listen, to be still and know - means we might discover our true selves and our true calling in God.

Regardless, Jesus tells us to not be afraid. Wherever we are in our understanding of who Jesus is, of what his coming means to us, and how that changes us, he touches us and tells us to not be afraid.

Don't be afraid of the life I planted in you and of what I am calling you to do. Don't be afraid of the journey, and of what is to come.

Don't be afraid. I am transfiguring you, changing you, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is working in and through you. As you experience my presence in the high points and in the low, in your ordinary moments, and in your dark nights, you are being formed more and more into the person I created you to be. Don't be afraid.

Transfiguration, transformation, becomes our way of life as we learn to see and experience God with and within us, as well as with and within others, present at all times, at work in and through every situation and circumstance. We are God's beloved and don't need to be afraid.

But our transfiguration, our transformation, our changing, doesn't ensure a life without difficulty or trouble or struggle. When Jesus and the three disciples came off the mountain, they are met by a man whose son needs healing. And we know that after the Transfiguration Jesus goes to Jerusalem where he is betrayed, tried, beaten and executed. Even the Beloved is not immune from the pain and hardships of life.

What it does mean is that every moment contains the potential for change, for redemption, for grace, for love, if we allow it, because God is present in every moment of our lives, creating the possibility for outcomes we cannot even imagine. Who could have imagined Easter morning standing at the foot of the cross? God. God did.

So while my exhaustion won't magically go away, while I am still in need of a mountain top and some time away, God is present with me during this time and is calling me to allow the Spirit to use it all, all of it, to bring about change within me and in my world.

I'd like to share a prayer by Angela Ashwin in closing that has helped me these last few weeks. Let us pray.

"Lord, you put twenty-four hours in a day and gave me a body which gets tired and can only do so much. Show me which tasks you want me to do and help me to live prayerfully as I do them. Sharpen my senses, that I may truly see what I am looking at, taste what I am eating, listen to what I am hearing, face what I am suffering, celebrate the ways I am loved, and offer to you whatever I am doing so that the water of the present moment may be turned into wine." AMEN.

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