Year B, Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Our expectations have a profound effect on what we see.
- Walking in the desert, seeing nothing. I expected the desert to be empty of life.
- Friend who loved the desert taught me to see the life all around.
- My expectations blinded me to the wonder of life in that extreme environment. My friend’s love of the desert taught me to have new expectations and I could see.
Today we heard the story of the “transfiguration”
- Jesus glows. He is beautiful and glowing with a light from within.
Examples of real-world transfiguration:
- Your own child, as a baby or toddler
- Daughter on her wedding day
- Your partner when you have just fallen in love is transfigured every day
- We expect each of these to be beautiful, and they are. I don’t have the same reaction to someone else’s baby, or some other young woman on her wedding day.
Parallel with the apostles on the mountain with Jesus
- They had been with him, heard him teach, seen him heal, and fallen in love with him
- They had come to know that around Jesus beautiful, godly things, sacred things happened on a regular basis
- On the mountain this night they see what they have come to know and even to expect
Jesus was transfigured, they saw visions of Moses and Elijah, and then they heard the voice of God speaking from a cloud: “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him!”
- God reveals his love for Jesus in this moment
- Like the parent loving the toddler
- Or the father loving his daughter on her wedding day
- Or the lover gazing with adoration on his or her true love
- God says, “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.”
After the vision of Christ transformed and the voice of God, Peter, James and John had to go back down the mountain. They had to rejoin the other nine disciples, deal with the grumbling, the misunderstandings, and the trials on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus. We cannot stay on the mountain top. Those mountain top experiences are rare.
For the past three weeks I have encouraged you to spend time in prayer each day, to give thanks to God each day, and to seek opportunities for acts of kindness. These things condition us, they build within us the expectation that God is present in our lives. When we pray daily, give thanks daily, and do acts of kindness daily, we learn to expect to see God. We learn to expect to encounter Christ daily.
We are now going into the season of Lent. Lent is a season that takes place at the foot of the mountain. Traditionally, Lent has been a season in which people are prepared for Baptism, and a season in which those who have been separated from the church engage in acts of penitence and repentance to restore their relationship with the Church and with God.
During Lent we engage in self-reflection, penitence, and confession. We work to restore relationship with one another and with God. Lent is a season where we work to restore our ability to be in love with God.
This is the last Sunday after the Epiphany. This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It is time to make your plans for Lent. If you already have a practice of daily prayer, perhaps you should add the work of repentance and forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to apologize to?
If you do not have a practice of daily prayer and meditation, giving thanks, and seeking opportunities for acts of kindness, make that your Lenten discipline.
If you struggle with your temper, consider giving up swearing for Lent.
If you struggle with always wanting things and buying things to try and feel better, consider giving up buying things for yourself during Lent.
Life happens at the bottom of the mountain. Lent is a time to work on our everyday, bottom of the mountain lives so that we learn to expect, even here at the bottom of the mountain, to encounter the light of Christ.
The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA
February 15, 2015