Where are you?
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, February 10, 2013.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It’s a day that the church sets aside to remember the events experienced by Jesus, Peter, James and John on the mountaintop. There is a temptation to read this story and make it all about Jesus. But, there’s more to it than that. This story is not just about Jesus. It’s about us and the way in which we are called to live our lives as followers of Jesus, the Christ. This story is about us and what’s possible (or not) when we choose to follow Christ.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up the mountain to pray. And, it was there that Jesus changed before their very eyes. Words were hard to come by. Peter, James and John had never seen anything like this before. The appearance of Jesus’ face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. Peter, James, and John were so overwhelmed by the sight that they became sleepy. It’s not that they were lazy or worn out, they just couldn’t comprehend what was going on. Peter’s head began to clear first. And he spoke, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three magnificent shrines for you, and…is that…Moses and Elijah?”
Peter wanted, more than anything, to hold on to and cherish that very moment: the feeling, the sights and the sounds. Peter wanted to seal that moment in stone, literally. Now before we poke too much fun at Peter, let’s be clear. We do the exact same thing.
We experience God in a certain way and we seek to cherish that moment forever. Like Peter, we follow Jesus up the mountain to a thin place. “A thin place…is a physical place where human beings experience God more directly.” We follow Jesus to a thin place where we experience God in a life-transforming way. Maybe for you it’s worship, a hymn, a place, an experience, a certain group of people. Where-ever, whatever, or whoever it is it is a place, a thing, a person through which we see and experience God…it’s something we cherish and never want to let go of or leave. We all want to stay on the mountaintop, but the truth is God needs us in the valley. God needs us in the trenches.
What we learn from today’s Gospel lesson is that the glory of God can never be understood apart from the pain of a broken world. The disciples didn’t have a clue about what had happened on the mountain until they witnessed Jesus heal a tormented child. It was only after the boy was healed that “everyone was overwhelmed by God’s greatness.”
If we really want to understand what Jesus is about, if we want to begin to comprehend the glory of God, then we can’t stay on the mountaintop. We cannot sequester ourselves in our isolated Christian communities. We cannot simply come to worship, listen to Christian radio, go to Bible study and only have Christian friends. We’ve got to make our way down the mountain, and engage the painful wounds of a broken world. We’ve got to start living our lives with and for others.
In Luke 4 (18-19) we find what Rev. Michael Slaughter, “lead dreamer” and pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, calls Jesus’ personal mission statement. Jesus is in his home town of Nazareth, reading Scripture in his home church. He turns to Isaiah 61 and begins to read:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus’ mission was to restore the world and reveal God’s Kingdom. The Good News of God’s Kingdom, the glory of God, is revealed when the poor are offered encouragement, prisoners are released, the blind see, and the oppressed are set free. Jesus’ mission was to engage the painful wounds of injustice, oppression, and inequality. Jesus’ mission was to show people the way in which God’s love can heal the world’s wounds and establish a new way of living that glorifies God and lifts up our neighbors.
Peter, James and John missed that point whenever they came down off the mountain. They kept what they had seen to themselves. The glory they had seen was meant to be shared and in so doing make a difference in the world: driving out demons, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, setting prisoners free, and releasing captives. Our experience with God’s glory was never meant to be a personal thing, it was meant to be shared…it was meant to make a difference in and for the world.
The transfiguration of Jesus “offers a glimpse of what is possible, not only for Jesus, but for all humanity” if we would live transfigured lives. The transfiguration is a reminder that living faith is not all about mountaintop experiences. God needs us in the valley, sharing his love and grace—allowing God’s glory to shine through us to heal a broken world.
Let us pray:
Lord of the Mountaintop, God of dazzling clothes,
Be with us when we come down from the height of worship
To face a world
That didn’t see what we just saw in you.
Show us what to do.
When demons rage though elementary schools
Let it not be said that your disciples could not cast the devil out.
When violence threatens to engulf our communities
Let it not be said that your disciples cowered in fear
Or walked on the other side of the road.
When there is peril or fire or flood,
Let it not be said that your disciples cleared the unwanted junk from their
And called it charity….
Lord of the Mountaintop experience, God of dazzling clothes
Show us how to be.
Change us; transfigure us
So that this world might see what we have just seen, and worship you.
 “Thin Places: A Biblical Investigation,” Patheos.com <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/thin-places/> Accessed February 8, 2013.
 Luke 9:43a, Common English Bible.
 For the past several weeks, Rev. Mike Slaughter has been preaching about personal, life mission statements in his “Dare to Dream” sermon series. You can find the first sermon in that series here: http://ginghamsburg.org/sermons/resources/952.
 Theological Perspective: Luke 9:28-36 (37-43) in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 4. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), p454.