(2 Chron 6:18-21; Ps 99; Matt 17:1-9)
May I speak in the name of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is nothing ordinary about
Matthew’s Gospel this morning.
He tells us that Jesus led Peter, James and his brother John up a high mountain.
We sense that something very significant
is about to happen.
And, of course, it does.
The disciples are so affected when
they see Jesus transfigured –when they see Moses and Elijah with him –
that that they want to build dwellings to
capture the moment.
The transfiguration was not necessary to
reveal the identity of Jesus.
Peter already had acknowledged him as the Christ,
the Son of the Living God.
The transfiguration was not necessary for Jesus.
It was Peter, James and John who needed this experience.
Disturbing as it was in that moment,
they needed to see and experience the power
of the Living God in their midst,
up close and personal.
Sometimes you and I are given
Maybe not so dramatic or alarming.
Maybe not of the mountaintop variety.
But they happen all around us.
I experienced one such moment when
my mother Sarah and my father drove me to Live Oak
so I could attend Cursillo #55.
I had just climbed on the bus with the other candidates
for the final leg of the journey into Camp Weed.
I looked out the window to see my folks standing
arm-in-arm as they waved to me.
I cannot explain precisely what I experienced
but their expressions in that moment
I saw freedom and love and joy in their faces.
For the first time ever,
I recognized their true identity –
not as my parents but as children of God.
Their smiling faces shone with the glory of God.
In that moment they were transfigured.
In that moment, I caught a glimpse of
my own identity.
I remember hearing, just a few years ago,
about a transfiguration experience of sorts from Lupe,
an abuela (a grandma), whom I met in
Riobamba, a small town in Ecuador.
She had been hosting a weekly Bible study
for her neighbors.
While their children played nearby,
the adults would read scripture and
pray for God to help them feed their families
and take care of basic needs.
One day the adults noticed the children playing “house”
with plastic food and other toys.
The children began to pool their belongings
to make sure everyone had sufficient food
and other resources.
Watching the children work together was
a transfiguration moment for Lupe.
She sensed that God was revealing something
important through the children’s actions.
Lupe began to wonder what might happen if the adults
were to pool their money to buy groceries in bulk.
Eventually she convinced her neighbors to
each pitch in $5, hoping that together they
would be able to buy enough vegetables and
food for a week.
They ended up buying enough food for 2 weeks!
Over the years, this grew into a food co-op that
has been duplicated in multiple cities in Central
and South America.
We also met Lupe’s grown son Roberto, who was
one of the children that inspired this effort.
He travels to nearby countries, training others on
how to start a food co-op and encouraging
farmers to produce organic vegetables and
to sell locally.
Today he has a family of his own, and
he serves in the Ecuadorian cabinet as
Minister of Food Sovereignty.
Transformation moments stir us up.
They move us toward something new.
Last Wednesday I witnessed a transfiguration of sorts.
My friend Michael, a man I met on the street nearly
two years ago, approached me during our
Morning Prayer Coffee fellowship at Clara White Mission.
We have spoken and prayed together off and on.
Michael has a history of substance abuse.
He has enjoyed periods of being clean and sober.
But then “The devil comes in,” he tells me.
I notice that Michael has never embraced
12-step recovery communities.
He hangs on the very edge at best,
convinced that faith in Jesus is enough.
As he approached me Wednesday,
he had a look of intention on his face.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Not so good,” he said. “I relapsed and I just got out of jail.
I need you to help me,” he said.
What I saw in his face — in his entire being –
in that moment of clarity,
was a man transfigured by the Spirit of Truth.
When he asked for help, I knew he meant it.
I knew he was willing.
I wrote down the name of a man who
could help him enter a recovery community.
“Why don’t we call him right now, together,”
I suggested and he agreed.
We met and all was arranged.
He called me Friday morning,
Excited to be moving in.
“This morning, when I woke up,
I felt the hand of God like never before.”
These experiences of transfiguration often happen
in the briefest of moments,
but they are more real than the flesh on our bones.
These moments provide an opening for
the grace of God to enter our lives in
a new and profound way.
The moments themselves become
meaningful when we let our guard down,
when we follow through with action.
Jesus was not interested in having the disciples
worship him or Moses or Elijah.
He was showing them the true source for the work
he would give them to do:
Welcome the stranger, feed the hungry,
visit the prisoner, heal the sick.
My friend Michael may find recovery
but he will only hang onto it,
If he is willing to give it away,
if he is willing to share what has been given to him.
This will be his work.
Transfiguration experiences require risk
They inspire us to consider what Lupe told us
that chilly morning in Ecuador:
“Another world is possible.”
Moments of transfiguration remind us
that God is alive and well,
and that He is with us in our work.
On Wednesday we will observe Ash Wednesday and
enter a season of reflection and repentance.
If we can remember that we are merely dust and
to dust we shall return,
it will be easier to see the folly of hiding
our true selves from God or from one another.
This Creator of all things cannot be contained,
not on earth or in the heavens above the earth.
But I promise you that this Living God –
this One who is Love –
dwells here, with us mortals on earth.
This Living God longs to bring us together,
to make us whole, not just as individuals
but as a community.
Watch for him. Wait for him.
Do not be afraid.