|February 14, 1999|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
to Rev. Hamilton
Gospel Lesson - Matthew 17:1-9
1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John
and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured
before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling
white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4
Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I
will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for
Elijah." 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed
them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him
I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell
to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them,
saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." 8 And when they looked up, they saw no
one except Jesus himself alone.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one
about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
2 Peter 1:16-19
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the
power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his
majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that
voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my
Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 18 We ourselves heard this voice come
from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to
be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns
and the morning star rises in your hearts. (NRSV)
Sermon - Risky Business
Reality is my favorite word. I am always hearing myself say, "the reality
is " so when I received this email from a friend I loved it. Reality from a
child's view - advice - "don't talk back to a teacher when her eyes and ears
are twitching" "Never ask for anything that cost more than $5.00 when your
parents are doing the taxes" "Never try to baptize a cat" and my favorite -
"When your dad is angry and says "what do you think I am, stupid? Don't
Reality is my favorite word. When I was young and people would try to
classify themselves as optimists or pessimists, I knew that I could only call
myself a realist. I would look at all of the possibilities in a situation and
then discard those that were too far out of the realm of expectation. It is
no wonder that my favorite class in college was statistical analysis. (No
groaning, I know that I am strange) so If anyone had ever suggested that I
end up as a minister, I would have scoffed. In my reality, that wasn't a
possibility. I had a scientific bend and it really didn't allow for a deep
investment in something that couldn't be proved/seen/explained.
But let me tell you what happened last week when someone asked me how I could
believe in God - a warm place in my midsection began to glow. I said -
because I had my socks knocked off as I was blown back against the wall. I
talked about airplanes hanging in the air and our knowledge of how to use the
principles of aerodynamics to make that a possibility. I talked about the
miracle of life. I could fill pages on why I believe in God. And I would be
willing to bet that
Peter and James and John, who accompanied Jesus that day on the mountain,
felt the same way.
This is the last Sunday of Epiphany, our observance of Lent will begin on
Wednesday. This is the day that we read the story of the Transfiguration -
when we see Jesus transformed in the eyes of the disciples. When their friend
and leader became in their eyes, holy, kin to Moses and Elijah. However, they
may not have really known what to make of all that went on that day - it may
have been, as Jesus suggested, much later, when Jesus the Risen Christ met
them in the upper room, that they began to understand how that encounter
changed their reality. Then it would become "The Day that their lives were
changed". "You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a
dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts"
I am sure that my meeting with God that I name as the day my life was changed
was much different from theirs. There were no visions, no bright clouds, and
no mountaintop. I was just living my life when suddenly I felt like a bonfire
began to burn in my gut. My reality changed - in a split second. Read
excerpt from Shekinah by Kristin Johnson Ingram. - "It was without my
expectation that it (Shekinah) roared into my life like a hurricane, like
unchanneled electricity, like a torch suddenly thrust into the black
darkness, like cosmic fanfare. It came unpredictably and unpredictable,
full of demand and violent love, yanking me up and plunging me into the fire.
Passionate intuition and blinding light and breath-sucking presence - it
sailed out of heaven on powerful wings in flashing tongues of fire."
But, the reality is, not everyone has this kind of mind-bending experience
with God. Think of Moses, If you look in your Bibles at Exodus 3 you will
find a story of a man who needed much convincing - a burning bush might have
been enough for me, but not Moses, Not only was Moses conversing with God, in
Chapter 4, it took a staff turned into a snake, his hand turned leprous and
then restored, and the promise that water from the Nile would turn into blood
if poured on the dry ground. And still Moses resists, Until God promises to
give him the words and the signs -
And Elijah, Look in I Kings 19: 11 - when Elijah is seeking the Lord at
Horeb, an angel of the Lord tells him to go out and stand on the mountain,
before the Lord, where there was a great wind, but the Lord was not in the
wind, and after the wind a great earthquake - and yet the lord was not in the
earthquake, and then a fire, and still the lord was not there. But after the
fire, the sound of sheer silence, and then at last, came the voice of the
Lord. The still small voice, not fire or wind or earthquake. And in that
moment, Elijah knew that he was not alone.
We aren't all going to meet God in an earthquake, or a burning bush, a vision,
or even in the silence. But, we will meet God, if it is God we seek. The
route that God takes we leave up to God. It will most likely be the most
appropriate route for each one of us. We will meet God in whatever way that
will bring that a moment of transfiguration into our lives.
We tend to think of the story of the transfiguration as one of how Jesus was
changed, but the reality is - the disciples standing on the sidelines changed
too, they were just the witnesses who marked that day as different from all
others. The knowledge of God's presence changes our reality. Our
understanding of life's possibilities changes - in a sense we are created all
over again. Meeting God breathes holiness into us, it makes us more of who we
are than we knew before that moment. Our compassion is deepened until we
ache. Our patience is widened to the ends of the earth. Our love becomes a
fierce fire. Our devotion is heightened until it knows no bounds.
However God comes to us, we know that we are charged with a great
responsibility - and this is the hardest part. We become the agents of
possibility. We have to be willing to share our experience with others.
Neither Moses nor Elijah or the disciples were given their experience with God
for their own private spirituality. In every case, it was to benefit the
people of God, to bring the kingdom closer into view, to lead others to the
same moment of transfiguration that we experienced. We, as Christians, are
charged with the risky business of helping people extend their understanding
of reality. This is where the extra measure of compassion, love, devotion
and patience come into play.
When we see God's work waiting for a volunteer, we are called to raise our
hand. When we wonder who will help the homeless, it is you and I who will be
needing to make that difference. When we dream about the way things could be,
God is calling to us to take the first step. We might not feel ready, up to
the job, maybe we don't really have the time, but it will still be us that God
will rely on - we are to extend the possibility of a new reality for the
world. A kingdom reality.
I believe in God and I believe that with God, all things are possible.
And I truly believe that each one of us here will meet God, and that we will
find the courage to take the knowledge of that experience, into the world.
Take the risk, share what you know and trust that God will be with you, for
just like Moses and Elijah and Peter and James and John, you will be doing
God's work. Amen.
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