February 27, 2022 ~ Transfiguration Sunday ~ Rev. Beckie Sweet
On one of his many travels across the U. S., Charles Kuralt unexpectedly spent a night on Denali, once known at Mount McKinley. You may remember that Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, peaking at 20,310 feet above sea level, and located in south central Alaska. Kuralt had planned just a day visit, but the plane that carried him there was unable to bring him back. Since it was getting late, Chares and Izzy, a photographer who worked with him, would have to spend the night. Charles admits a feeling of fear swept over him in that strange, deserted place.
Their pilot told them that there was a cabin on the mountain not too far from where they were. They would be able to spend the night there. So, they hiked for nearly an hour before they found the small, simple cabin, half buried in snow. Inside there were sleeping shelves along the walls. What seemed strange to Charles when he first arrived were the large windows. After eating, the men were ready for bed. But then they turned off the lantern and looked out those same windows. They were taken by surprise by what they saw (do you know what it was?). Aurora Borealis ~ The Northern Lights! For one night only, they had the best seats on the planet for one of nature’s most spectacular shows. They stayed up watching in delight and wonder. When the scene faded away with the rising of the sun, both of them were left awed and exhausted. They knew they had been standing on holy ground! What they had seen was dazzling! Charles could not help but wonder if the pilot left them on the mountain on purpose. Maybe the pilot sized them up as a couple of guys who would benefit from a night to slow down and look around, and soak in the beauty of God’s creation. It would be a night Charles Kuralt would never forget. In fact, he would have been the first person to tell you that spending the night watching the glory of the Northern Lights shaped his appreciation for sights he would see in all of his future travels, and for his vision for humanity’s role in caring for God’s glorious creation. Such experiences are seldom really planned; they just happen, and when they do, we are grateful, and we are forever changed.
The disciples needed some time on the mountain. It had just been quite a shock when Jesus had spoken so plainly about what lay ahead. He told them he would “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” The disciples were both shocked and confused. This wasn’t what they thought would happen the day they decided to drop everything to follow Jesus. When Jesus called Peter, James, and John to go with him up the mountain, for a quiet time of prayer, they were ready to go!
And there was no way the disciples could have been prepared for what they witnessed and experienced with Jesus on the mountaintop. In Luke’s description as Jesus was praying: “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Or, “white as lightening,” as some other translators record this.) And, then Jesus was joined in conversation by Moses and Elijah. The three disciples were in awe. Before them was the one being revealed as the messiah, the giver of the law, and the greatest of the prophets — the primary sources of authority in Jewish life.
Not realizing it at the time, these disciples were being given a preview of what was to come. They were given a glimpse of what the future held. At that moment, they saw heaven and earth meet and time and eternity intersect. No sooner had Peter tried to make a grand statement, when Moses and Elijah were gone, a cloud appeared, and from that cloud came the voice of God, thundering the same ascription uttered at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my son, marked by my love. LISTEN TO HIM!” (The Message) Peter must have shaken his head, hoping to awaken from some nightmare. Listen to Jesus? The one who had just foretold his suffering and death? This was a truth that Peter did not want to accept, for like so many other difficult truths, this would necessitate a radical change for everyone.
Have you ever been confronted with a message, sent from God, that radically changed your perspective? Charles Kuralt certainly was! One church with which I am familiar, chose as its Lenten theme, “Forty Days of Love.” Each week members of the congregation were encouraged to show their love and appreciation for God’s blessings in different ways. The first week they were encouraged to send notes to people who had made positive contributions to their lives.
After the service, a man in the congregation wanted to speak to his pastor. The pastor describes the man [his words, not mine!] as “kind of macho, a former football player who loved to hunt and fish– a strong self-made man.” The man told his pastor, “I love you and I love this church, but I’m not going to participate in this Forty Days of Love stuff. It’s OK for some folks,” he said, “But it’s a little too sentimental and syrupy for me.”
Well, a week went by, and the next Sunday this man waited after church to see his pastor again. “I want to apologize for what I said last Sunday,” he began, “about the Forty Days of Love. I realized on Wednesday that I was wrong.” “Wednesday?” the pastor responded. “What happened on “Wednesday?”
“I got one of those letters!” the man said. The letter had come as a total surprise. It was from a person the man never expected to hear from. It touched him so deeply that he now carries it around in his pocket every day. “Every time I read it,” he said, “I get tears in my eyes.” It was a transforming moment in this man’s life. Suddenly he realized he was loved by others in the church. This changed his entire outlook. He went on, “I was so moved by that letter, that I sat down and wrote ten letters myself.”
Receiving that letter was a transforming experience for this man. It came from a mailbox rather than a mountaintop, but the effect was the same — his perspective was changed. God breaks into our lives, and we are changed. We go into the future recognizing that we are standing on holy ground, and soon we can view Christ’s dazzling countenance.
During our Lenten season worship services, we will be exploring the many ways that God equips us to work for Christ’s justice in the world today. We will research the scriptural foundations for our baptismal covenant and pursue making that covenant the underpinning of our decision-making as we resolve to serve Christ faithfully each day. You will not want to miss a single Sunday as we explore “Roll Down Justice” in the midst of our journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem.
So, today, as war destroys the lives of a portion of the human family, I invite you to light a candle and pray each day. The candle may be like an electric or battery-powered light which you place in the window of your home or the window of your heart. It may be a real candle lit during the time of prayer. Let the candlelight be a witness to our neighbors and community that we are praying for PEACE, dazzling peace. I have collected prayers to assist you in this endeavor. There are 7 prayers, one for each day of the week, if you choose to use them. These will be available for you as you depart. Tomorrow morning we will place these on our website as well.
Jan Richardson has written a blessing to move us through this Transfiguration Sunday:
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday
Believe me, I know
how tempting it is
to remain inside this blessing,
to linger where everything
We could build walls
around this blessing,
put a roof over it.
We could bring in
a table, chairs,
have the most amazing meals.
We could make a home.
We could stay.
But this blessing
is built for leaving.
is made for coming down
wants to be in motion,
to travel with you
as you return
to level ground.
It will seem strange
how quiet this blessing becomes
when it returns to earth.
It is not shy.
It is not afraid.
It simply knows
how to bide its time,
to watch and wait,
to discern and pray
until the moment comes
when it will reveal
everything it knows,
when it will shine forth
with all that it has seen,
when it will dazzle
with the unforgettable light
you have carried
all this way.
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
– See more at: http://paintedprayerbook.com/2016/02/05/transfiguration-sunday-a-blessing-made-for-coming-down-the-mountain/#sthash.qU2GbBco.dpuf