Transfiguration of Our Lord – February 23, 2020

Posted on February 26, 2020, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

February 23, 2020

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

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Matthew 17:1-9

Back in the day of film cameras – do you remember those? I still have one. Back in the day of film cameras, some friends and I were talking about random pictures that we’d taken and how what showed up in the developed photos wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

And in that conversation, a friend of mine told the rest of us about the picture she’d taken of a chameleon – the lizard that changes color according to wherever it happens to be. She said that she’d used the flash when she took the picture. And so I asked, “Was it white after you’d taken the picture?” And she said, “It was white in the picture!” It had changed color that fast.

When we think about the changes we experience in our lives, we know that some are sudden and some are more subtle. And one isn’t necessarily easier than the other. I personally prefer the subtle changes because they make me feel like I’m somewhat in control over what’s going on. Even though I know that isn’t the case, and in reality I just overthink every possible outcome and drag it out as long as I can.

But the sudden changes, the ones that come when you think you have everything figured out? The ones that make you think on your feet and don’t allow time for overthinking? Those are the changes that force you to act and move forward because that’s the only option.

It doesn’t mean you forget about what life was like before. But it deepens your perspective and understanding about it as you move into what comes next.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain with him and was transfigured, that was a sudden change. [1]Up until that moment, Peter and the others had only experienced Jesus as a teacher, a storyteller, a healer, and a traveling companion. His face, his mannerisms and his mission were familiar and safe, and things happened at a comfortable pace. And then everything changed.

On that mountaintop, in an instant Jesus was both fully himself and fully unrecognizable. And the path that was ahead of the disciples upended everything they thought they understood about Jesus.

[2]He didn’t stop being any of the things he was before, but in the instant that Jesus was transfigured, the disciples’ understanding of who he was changed. Peter recognized that. And he was caught between wanting things to stay the same and knowing that they couldn’t because change was afoot. He didn’t want to hold onto the past forever; he just wanted a little more time with it.

Because in the instant of the Transfiguration, Peter recognized that Jesus changes us, the people who follow him. And when Jesus changes us, there’s no going back. And that’s both exciting and terrifying.

When they came down from the mountain that day, Peter and the others honored Jesus’ command to not tell anyone about what they’d seen until after the resurrection. But they also didn’t keep those changes to themselves.

Because, moving forward, they were changed forever. Everything they did – the people they healed, the lessons they learned, the events they witnessed – all the way to the cross and the resurrection and beyond – all of that took on a deeper meaning because of their experience with Jesus that day. There was no going back.

[3]Peace Lutheran Church is a small but mighty congregation near Minneapolis, Minnesota. And about 15 years ago, things were to the point that it was faced with having to close. And the congregation decided that if it was going to die, it was going to die well.

So they went out into their neighborhood with a project called “Christmas in August” – a promise for free home repair and improvement. Something that was sorely needed in their area. The people of the congregation told their neighbors that they would fix their houses – everything from plumbing to roofs and gutters to remodeling, and they would do it free of charge.

It didn’t matter how much money a person made, or if they were Lutheran or not, or even if they ever came to worship at Peace. The idea was to help people who needed to make significant home repairs just for the sake of doing it.

The first year, only two people responded. But the people of Peace Lutheran stayed at it. And word got out. Non-members joined the cause and began helping. And the community, the entire community, has grown and relationships have deepened in ways no one could have imagined.

The congregation still has its struggles. But embarking on the journey that they have has completely changed the way the people of Peace Lutheran see and serve their community. And the changes are still unfolding.

When Jesus changes us, we don’t have any control over its timing and we don’t always know what the end result will be. But when Jesus changes us, there’s no going back.

Here at Saint Andrew’s, it’s tempting to think that because we’re at a summit of sorts in our journey, we can sit back and rest for a bit before returning to work. In a manner of speaking, we wanna be like Peter and build some tents because we are at a high point: you’ve called a new pastor, and I’m beginning my time here with you in that role.

But Jesus’ transfiguration reminds us that we aren’t done yet and that the work can’t wait, that change is afoot. Our high point is the beginning, and we’re preparing to move forward into the next phase of ministry here. We’re preparing to move down from the mountaintop and into our life together.

But here’s the thing – as we move forward, we carry the experience of the mountaintop with us. We carry with us the changes Jesus has made in us, as individuals and as a congregation. And the changes Jesus has made in us will guide us in what comes next.

Like being a host site for Congregations for the Homeless next month, and gaining a deeper understanding about who our neighbors really are and the best ways we can serve them.

Another part of what’s next will be conversation about human sexuality and gender identity, and learning how that shapes who we are as a congregation.

Part of what’s next will be figuring out effective ways to stay connected with each other when we all can’t get here on a Sunday morning or for midweek activities.

Part of what’s next will be venturing beyond the boundaries of our campus and discovering how we can become more involved in our surrounding community.

And those are just a few of the things you’ve told me are important to who we are as a faith community. We’ll look at the rest as we go.

Jesus changes us. Sometimes over time and sometimes in an instant. But there’s no question that Jesus changes us. And as people who follow him, as his disciples, we don’t keep those changes to ourselves because they shape not only who we are but also who we become. We embody them and they become part of our daily lives as individuals and as a congregation.

And as we move forward, we trust that those changes, that Jesus, will guide us in our way in whatever comes next. Amen.

[1] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=2535
[2] https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4823
[3] https://www.livinglutheran.org/2020/01/for-the-sake-of-the-neighborhood/