Transfiguration Sunday – Pentecost + 9
6 August 2017
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 99 pg 837
2 Peter 1:16-19
Lord of the mountain peak, whose light reveals the earth to be a dwelling place for love; Lord of the overshadowing, whose darkness confounds the lie that we can possess you: transform our hearts and minds, so that we may listen to him who bears the weight of glory in the lightness of our flesh, Jesus Christ, your Chosen One. Amen.
How do we, how will we tell the stories of our faith?
How are we able to share the events of our lives, lived in the shadow of the cross? In the brightness of the transfigured Son of God?
How will the words come out? Will they be halting, hesitating? Will we exaggerate the details of our stories? Or, will we write it all down and try to memorize our words in a smooth pattern of delivery that is sure to impress?
Interestingly, the really nifty thing that happens, when we tell our stories, is that they come to life. They have the ability to give life when we tell them aloud.
Today our epistle reading shows us one very simple truth – that the life changing revelation of the gospel, of our faith is real.
Peter tells us: “16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Pet 1:16)
The apostles didn’t make anything up.
They didn’t exaggerate the miracles or the details, but rather they shared what they had seen, what they experienced, what they felt, in that moment.
And we are able to do the same!
Every day we have the ability to open our bibles, we’re able to enter into the pages of the story, and we’re able to experience what happened, not just two millennia ago, but even two minutes ago when we enter the stories, ourselves, and we express what it is we’ve found there.
One example that easily comes to mind, for me, of someone who vividly enters the biblical story is we=hen I think of some of the old, the classic, Charlton Heston movies. Especially movies those that literally live out, depict the stories of our faith.
Two that easily come to mind are when he played Moses in the “10 Commandments,” in 1956, and when he played Judah Ben Hur in the movie “Ben Hur” in 1959.
Now, you may be thinking I’m off base, here. After all I said enter the story, not become a Hollywood actor. At the same time, Heston wasn’t just an actor, but he was a man of strong faith.
I’m always struck by the awe he shows when, on the way to the Roman Slave Galleys, Judah ben Hur is given water to drink by Christ, himself, before Christ begins his ministry amongst us. It’s just water, nothing special about it, but it is the strength that is felt in Jesus that even then Judah’s faith is strengthened, and even the Roman Soldier doesn’t interfere.
It is this same sense of faith, and awe, and love that is shown at the end of the movie when his mother and sister, both afflicted with leprosy who beg for mercy for this one innocent who goes to the cross for each one of us. And their compassion is repaid when, upon christ’s death they are healed.
I was once told that there is a difference between someone who is an actor reading passages of the bible, and someone of faith who reads those same passages. But what if the person reading them is an actor who has faith? Just imagine the recitation this one person can make of the stories of our faith?
Now, I’m not saying this to intimidate anyone. After all I’m of the belief that when we speak of faith with love, with gratitude, with feeling then we are living, expressing, passing along our faith from one to another.
It’s sort of like someone who makes their own yogurt; the new batch of yogurt has to begin with some of the old batch of yogurt.
Each one of us has the ability to read the stories, the parables of Jesus; and we are able to put ourselves into the stories, and we’re able to share those stories to all around us.
Our gospel, for today, tell us “28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” (Lk 9:28)
Yet it wasn’t just Peter, John and James who went up that mountain to pray, but each one of us who hears these words, who knows what it is like to go apart to pray.
Every day we see, our own “mountaintop experiences” when we pray, when we read scripture, when we mediate on the word of God, and on the tenets of our lives of faith, and this is what we see Jesus doing, with Peter, James, John, and with each one of us, in the gospel, today.
When the stories are told, we aren’t outside observers to those stories as we are with the fairy tales of our youth. After all, only Cinderella can marry the prince, only Goldilocks can eat the oatmeal and try out the chairs. Only Harry Potter can defeat Voldemort.
But we are all at the top of the mountain.
We are there with them on the mountaintop. We see what Peter, James, and John see, experience, and hear. We are even able to feel what they feel in the presence of the transfigured Christ, in the presence of Moses and Elijah.
We understand how they react and why in the depths of this overwhelming experience.
At the same time, each one of us is able to share those experiences, those stories in any number of ways. We can read the passages aloud, we can enter into the biblical experience and see where it becomes our own.
When we tell the stories of our faith, we can add voices, we can add facial expressions, if we’d like, to enhance the telling of the stories, the parables the experiences.
And if one has the gift to do that, then great. But I know we don’t all have the gift of being able to be actors in our lives. We don’t all have the talent to be a character in a movie, in the readings in the passages we encounter and love in the bible.
At the same time, we don’t have to be. After all, this is our story. This is our life of faith. This is our experience of the divine, when we enter the pates of the bible, when we tell how the love of God has changed, and continues to change our lives.
After all, we are communicating the love of God for each one of us, poor sinners. We are communicating the miracles that occurred, and we are permitted to be there, to be a part of what God is doing in the world, not just two millennia ago, but still, today, here, now and in each of our lives and hearts.
In order to tell the stories of our faith, we need to love what we are reading. We need to love what we are experiencing, what we are seeing, not just on the mountaintop, as the glory of God shines through the Messiah, the Christ, but also when we hear the voice of God from the cloud. When we see Moses and Elijah, when we feel the love of God envelop each one of us, on that mountaintop as we are enveloped by the cloud, we need to express that love, that confusion, that terror as the glory of God shines through the Messiah.
Peter tells us, today: “18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pet 1:18-19)
Because embracing the experience is one thing, but telling our stories is the natural next step.
Its as easy as promoting a book that we’ve read, and enjoyed, or a movie, or even a tv show. How do those experiences burn within us and long to be shared with those around us?
Today we celebrate Jesus transfigured on the mountain, but Jesus isn’t the only one who is changed, who is transfigured by this experience. We are, each one of us, changed, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Cor 15:51-2)
And we are changed. Each one of us, by this experience.
When we look at this text before Lent, we focus on the road before Jesus. We focus on the fact that this experience happens because Jesus is the son of God, because it is his death that sets each one of us free from the power of sin and death that separates us from the love of God.
But, here we are, on the Easter side of Lent. Here we are on the Pentecost side of the entire Easter experience.
And here we are. The ones who carry the story, and who are tasked with telling it to the world.
On Easter morning, there were the apostles and the disciples, a small minority, surrounded by those who didn’t believe as they did, yet the story needed to be told.
The world needed to hear that the power of the grave is broken. That the one who died for our sins rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven where he waits, patiently, for each one of us who believes.
The world needs to hear that the stories are true, that the stories have the power to change our lives, their lives, and the way we view each other and the world around us.
Peter is right when he tells us: “19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pet 1:19)
These aren’t “cleverly devised stories”, this is the gospel. This is the good news, this is the ability to share what we know to be true in our hearts, that Christ was born so that each of us may live. That Christ died so that we might live, that Christ rose from the dead so that we may have life and live it abundantly.
That’s a message worth sharing.