Sunday, February 22, 2009

Transfiguration Sunday

Today's Link

Saying for the Day
God gave us memories that we might have roses in December. ~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922
Picture of the Day
One of my Mountain Tops

In churches following the Common Lectionary this is Transfiguration Sunday ( Not to be confused with the Feast of the Transfiguration which in Orthodox and Catholic Churches is celebrated on August 6). It marks the end of the Epiphany Season. The Gospel is Mark 9:2-9.
This is the text that gives us the expression “ Mountain Top Experience”. Jesus takes three of his disciples up on the mountain and there he is transfigured. His garments begin to glow brighter than anything the disciples have ever seen. Since Epiphany is about the light of God breaking into the world through Christ this a wonderful way to bring the season to an end.
One of my problems with this text , over the years, is that I looked at the edge rather than the center of the text. On the edge is a scared to babbling Peter. He is familiar to me. He needs to talk. He can’t just stand there. I’ve been in Peter’s place so I feel with him. I preached that sermon.
Then there is Moses and Elijah also on the edge. They invite the preacher to see the coming together of Old and New Testaments. I’ve preached that sermon.
But they aren’t the center of the text. They aren’t the wrap up of Epiphany. Jesus is. Here the light shines at its brightest blinding us. Here the voice God announces that Jesus is his Son . Here The Father tells us to listen to the Son.. It is a mountain top experience. for the disciples. They will never forget it.
The problem with mountain top experiences is that you have come down
The disciples had to come down to a world where the garments of Jesus didn’t shine. A world in which some people would crucify Him. They had to come down.
Nobody gets to stay on the mountain. That’s the bad news.
I met Jesus at Bible Camp but at the end of the week I had to go home. I had to leave the mountain top where loving Jesus was good to go home where my experience was met with some disdain.
I went to the Great Charismatic Conference were Christians of all different denominations came together. I went up on the mountain and Jesus was closer to me than He had ever been. But I had to come down and go back to my parish. Back to teaching Confirmation, burying people, and all the other daily tasks of the Pastor.
One Sunday I looked out over the congregation and I could feel the Holy Spirit moving over the congregation. It was a remarkable experience. But I had to come down from that mountain and lead the liturgy where I left out a full page ( gleefully pointed out to me by the acolyte).
Nobody has to tell us we can’t stay on the mountain. We know it. We’ve been there.
But what we sometimes forget is we can go back and visit . God has given us memory. For a moment we can see and feel what we saw and felt on our mountain.
Those visits help to sustain us as we struggle to follow Christ to the cross.
I’m sure that in the difficult times after they came down from the mountain the disciples replayed the event over and over again in their minds and it gave them strength to go on.
My return visits to my mountain tops have certainly helped me.

News from Pigeon Falls
The little town in my basement where the trains still run, dragons fly, and life is back to normal.
Pastor Joan really got the congregation thinking this morning here is a part of her sermon:
“ I want you to come on the mountain with the disciples. I can’t tell you why. The disciples don’t know why.
Now look Jesus gets out ahead of you and stands on the side of the mountain.
Your not looking. Some of you are having such a hard time seeing this .
Lets try an experiment.
Close your eyes.
Now with your mind see Jesus. See Him standing there.
Oh! Look his robe is beginning to glow. It is getting brighter and brighter. You have never seen anything so bright. It’s a bit scarey isn’t it.
Now look two people are suddenly there talking to Him. Why it’s Moses and Elijah . But only Jesus is glowing.
Now listen. Hear the Father telling you that Jesus is his Son.
And one more thing. You should listen to Him.
Will you? “
At the coffee after the early service Herman said you know for a moment I really could see Jesus.
Wrap UP
It was one great day. I got up and the sun was shining. It wasn't warm but it looked so good. Church was just great. As I rolled around taking pictures of the Sunday School for the website I got to talk to the nicest people. The service had both the children's choir and the bell choir and both were uplifting. We had a hymn sing where the congregation picked the hymns and they really sang. The sermon was great as we move from Epiphany to lent. When we came home we had Apple Roast for dinner cooked in the slow cooker. All afternoon I worked on the Church website. I was learning some new things as I went along so that was good. I visited "toady's link" and all the links of people who commented yesterday. Now I need a breathing treatment,


Blogger Living on the Spit said...

This is probably your best post least it is for me. You have such a wonderful way of relating the world to life and I appreciate it very much.

I try to envision my mountain top experience each and every orning to start my day refreshed and anew. I have never been able to explain it to myself until now and for that I am deeply grateful.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Nessa said...

Beautiful sermon. I have been lamenting being down the mountain for about a year now and you have captured that feeling so wonderfully for me - and it's solution. Thanks.

4:23 AM  
Blogger Melli said...

You know what always amazes me about THAT mountain top experience? Is that Peter was THERE! He was THERE! And still... when he came down, he denied Christ - not once, not twice... but THREE times! EVEN after witnessing that. Poor Peter... But yes, returning to our mountain tops are certainly what keeps our faith strong. Something tells me Pastor Paul WILL preach the Gospel today!

Pastor Joan always has a great sermon!

5:59 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I've been reading The Highest Life by Gene Edwards (also the author of A Tale of Three Kings)and he talks about how Peter was (even though he had denied Jesus three times just a few days before) the very first one to "become a partaker of the Divine Life"- Peter, undeserving as he was, was the first person following Jesus' resurrection, to experience the quickening of the Holy Spirit within him, and to know what it was like to have a very peice of God Himself dwelling within. Add that to Peter's list of mountaintop experiences. And to our own- just think- we can, at any moment, call on that Life within us to sustain us. The mountaintop itself lives IN us.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Sandi McBride said...

Oh wow John. I've never been able to put my finger on it, but that is exactly answer the invitation one Sunday, go up to the altar and turn your life over to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and when you walk out you are walking on air...but it seems life knocks you off your feet and you have to struggle to get that feeling back again...wonderful post!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Finding Pam said...

I love this sermon today as well as Pastor Joan's. Thank you for the reminder.

8:55 AM  
Blogger PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

An elderly woman in our church once told me that she was always at our church on Transfiguration Sunday because it was her mother's birthday, so even when she lived far away, she traveled to be here. So today I told that woman that I was thinking of her and her mother. She said she has heard so many Transfiguration sermons...and she realizes that it isn't the mountain top experience that counts, but what one does when one comes down from the mountain. But you are right, we need the memory to make us remember the importance and reality of what happened.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Very nice Dr.!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Ahhh, but I can't wait to see Him in all of His Glory step foot on top of Mt. Olives. It is my sincere prayer that each and every one that comes by this blog - gets a chance to witness this. In fact I just know that they will. :)

9:40 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Pastor preached on this today, but the lay speaker who did the children's sermon was worlds better! She had the children follow her around the sanctuary and up to the altar. There at the altar she told them the story and when God spoke, one of the men from the choir read the words into the microphone, which caused the kids to turn around looking up at the ceiling, and the lady speaking took her robe off and beneath it she wore a dazzling white gown and the kids were all surprised to see her when they finally looked. It was great.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Gattina said...

I have visited this mountain some years ago, unfortunately I didn't take any pictures because I filmed at that time all my travels. But you can see a picture here Mount Sinai
I think a lot of people love to go to church because they meet each other on sunday mornings.
As I told you already, in Belgium the churches are rather empty, people prefer to meet on the market or in other non religious organization. Thanks to this old fashioned pope !

12:56 AM  

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