A sermon recording for March 3 is unavailable but the following manuscript can be read from Rev. Melissa Guthrie Loy:
I thought about draping a veil from the ceiling to the floor, with some kind of unveiling… I thought about positioning a large mirror here in the front so you could see the image of God, in yourself and in your neighbor. A smoke machine crossed my mind; that could have been a nice effect. Our scripture, this sacred story, it is fleshy. Full of sights and sounds and sensation. And we’re about to enter a season that is oh so fleshy. Ash Wednesday (this Wednesday at 7, see you there) Ash Wednesday invites us into Lent where we will experience dust and dirt and cries for help. Jesus’ hands and feet are disfigured. There is pain and blood and death. We know resurrection follows but we live in the wilderness a while.
Before we jump into Lent, before we journey to the cross, we find ourselves on a mountaintop. It’s Transfiguration Sunday. It’s Transitional Sunday.
Sure, this community is in a time of transition. Our time of transition is relevant. But I suggest that it’s Transitional Sunday because we are transitioning away from the twinkling stars of Christmas and Epiphany, entering that wilderness of Lent. Those who structured the lectionary, selecting each of the week’s readings, they knew what they were doing! Go figure!
I hope the birth of the Christ child at Christmas transfigured us. I hope Lent will transfigure us. I hope today’s mountaintop transfigures us.
Today’s mountaintop confuses us. Well, it confuses me. Baffles me. Trips me up. I’m a logical, rational thinker (my spouse may disagree). Little of today’s story makes sense for logical, rational thinkers.
We find ourselves watching Peter, James and John as they watch Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It seems like a scene from a science fiction film: a film really well done, with the bright, glowing light on a mountaintop, heroes from history reappearing, we would call that ghosts; a cloud, a voice coming from the cloud: we would call that crazy. There’s also the boy who is convulsing. Foaming at the mouth. Jesus rebukes what Luke calls an “unclean spirit.” Jesus heals the boy.
All this is astounding. It seems unbelievable; it seems magical. It’s mesmerizing and mysterious. If you’re not sure what to do with the transfiguration or the healing of the boy, you’re not alone. Peter, James and John didn’t know what to do…
But what, what do we do with the lights and sounds? The magic and mystery?
How do we explain it?
What if… What if we are not to explain it, but to enter into it?
Let us pray.
Mysterious God, help us enter into the unknowing. May our exploration of this sacred story inspire us even if we can’t explain it. Help us lean into the mystery of life, letting life’s experiences transform us, just as Jesus was transformed. Search us with revealing light, search us. Lift us from where we have fallen, lift us up. Full of questions, lead us through our daily lives. We live in this world as your Body. May our bodies and our minds be enlightened. Mysterious God, transformative God, may we be astounded at your greatness. Amen.
I recently traveled to the base of the mountains in Arizona. It was beautiful. I set up camp for a bit. I had some heavenly experiences. I returned home. I think “how nice it would have been to stay there.” I’m clearly not the first to want to pitch a tent on the mountain and stay put, to bask in the glory of God. Go figure! My story, our stories, are found in God’s story. Go figure!
I’ve had many mountaintop experiences. The irony of my journey is that many of my mountaintop experiences actually happened on mountaintops, especially the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Each mountaintop experience offered me perspective. With my head literally in the clouds, I gained perspective so I could see through the clouds. To clarify, I’ve never heard a voice speak to me from the clouds.
But that high up, I’m remembering Pikes Peak and Estes Park and other 14-ers, that high up, there are very few distractions. The air is thin. The space seems thin but full: there is something astounding, something holy.
It’s beautiful. Glorious.
Maybe you can relate. You’ve had that moment… that moment when the space seemed thin but so very full. There was something astounding, something holy.
Maybe it was an actual mountaintop. Maybe it was a mountaintop experience that happened in your home or a hospital or a sanctuary. Or at the beach or in your backyard. Think of the life experiences that have transformed you…
My time in Arizona was transformative. I had the opportunity to engage in 24 hours of silence. Josie was with me so you can imagine I didn’t get to be silent for the entire 24 hours. My sister met me there to be her caregiver so I could be intentional about the silence. I enjoyed reading. I found my way through a labyrinth. I prayed; I journaled. I listened to the noises of the desert and the noise within myself. The retreat, honestly, it was just the beginning.
It was just the beginning because I can find Jesus—we can find Jesus—in the world, along the way; not just at a rest stop or on a mountaintop.
I almost asked Babs to end the scripture reading after the bellowing voice from the cloud. The reading would have ended, “They kept silent and in those days told no one of any of the things they had seen.”
But I realized, the magic doesn’t actually happen on the mountaintop. The magic happens when we come down from the mountain. When we go through our daily lives transfigured as a result of experiencing God.
The Message translation of our 2 Corinthians reading says: “We are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”
The magic happens as a result of mountaintop experiences, or valleys! We are powerfully transformed in the heights and depths of our lives. Amen?
When we have a mountaintop experience, when we find ourselves in the valley, in these heights and depths of our lives, God refigures our thinking, our actions, our path.
On the mountaintop, in the valley, all along the way: we are invited to listen. Listen to him! The voice may not come from a cloud, but God’s voice, something holy will be in the air.
My prayer: Search us with revealing light. Lift us from where we have fallen. Full of questions, lead us through our daily lives.
I borrowed those words from Hymn No. 182, “Transform Us.” We’re about to sing the words together. But. Do. We. Do we want to be transformed?
If yes, if maybe:
There’s work to do. Jesus was put to work per se, the next day! “The next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Jesus rebuked an unclean spirit and healed a boy. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.”
What work do you need to do? Church, what work do we need to do?
What do you need to reconfigure?
Besides a mountaintop, where will you go to gain perspective? To listen?
What veil is clouding your view?
Ohhhh. There’s work to do. Go figure.
People of God, mystery, awesomeness and also uncertainty, those things can transform us. Through our sacred stories, through our relationships with one another and with God, with the sustenance of the feast we share at the table week after week, with questions unanswered and work we are called to do, with trust in or skepticism of magical mountaintops, may we find Jesus in the world and on the way. Even with things not figured out, may we go, transfigured. Amen.