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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
February 27 2022
Let us pray: God who sees the weakness in acts of naked aggression;
God who feels the fear in moments of acute helplessness: cure this warring madness, and shield all who fall in harm’s way. Leach the poison from the mind that thinks strength is shown in a bullying force. And may an equal strength in solidarity give resolve to those whose aim is to protect, and respect, not just the ones we call our own, but all with whom we can share a better, more peaceful world. Amen.
This prayer was written by the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland for the people of Ukraine. Corrymeela is an organization that offers space for the analysis of the underlying dynamics of conflict, fracture, scapegoating, and violence that we see in our world today. And it exists for the purpose of helping us learn how to live well together – specifically, to help groups learn how to be well together.
I’ve prayed this prayer several times over the last few days, and as I pray it and listen to the news – not only of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also the mix of emotions over changing guidelines for mask mandates as a variant of Omicron appears to be emerging, and the Texas governor trying to criminalize being Trans* or providing treatment for Trans* children and youth. And none of that even touches what may be going on in our personal lives.
But in all of this, two questions keep coming up for me: where does it end? and where is God in all of this? I don’t know where it ends, but I do know that God is here. Wherever “here” happens to be. We’ve been promised that. And our gospel reading for today gives us some insight into it.
When Jesus took Peter and James and John up the mountain to pray, the disciples were exhausted. They’d just returned from Jesus sending them out to cure, proclaim, and heal. And when Jesus takes them to a quieter area for some well-earned rest, they’re interrupted by more crowds and so they continue to work.
At the end of that day, they beg Jesus to send the crowd away – but instead, Jesus says, “Nope. Everybody have a seat. We have some fish and some bread, and it will be enough.” And it was.
When the disciples finally do get a day off, Jesus tells them about his upcoming rejection, and death, and that he will rise three days later.
Eight days after that, Jesus takes the three up on a mountain to pray – which is where we pick up the story today. And as Jesus prays and the disciples fight to stay awake, there’s a flash of radiance unlike anything they’d ever seen. Jesus’ entire appearance changes, Moses and Elijah show up, and the disciples are now awake.
As they try to come to terms with what they’re witnessing, the event ends almost as soon as it starts. And the next day, they’re heading back down the mountain into the reality of the world. Where the other disciples are still exhausted and still working, and unable to do an act of healing like ones that they’d done just a few weeks before. So, everybody was frustrated, including Jesus – who did heal the boy.
Before the Transfiguration, all of the disciples had gotten a glimpse of who Jesus was – a teacher, a healer, a miracle worker. Someone who spoke for the people on the margins and hung out with them. Someone who spoke against the status quo and taught everyone about the world God wants for us, inviting them to participate in bringing it about.
And for as wonderful as all that was, it was a limited perspective. Equally as limiting as what Peter, James, and John witnessed on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured. The two pieces of this story, the transfiguration of Jesus and the healing of the boy, each show who Jesus is.
But if we’re not careful, they can lead us to believe that – for lack of a better way of putting it – the bright shiny Jesus can only be witnessed in a mountaintop experience. That only that perspective and that type of experience reveals the glory of God – the greatness of God.
But God’s greatness, God’s glory, is revealed just as much when Jesus healed the boy. In the valley. Where most people, including us, live the majority of our lives. And the people there were astounded.
Both pieces of this story show the greatness of God. They show us that God’s greatness is all around us, and sometimes we just don’t notice it. We’re so caught up in the tragedy of world events, or even the tragedy of events in our own lives – and the weariness that it all brings, that we forget that the whole world is filled with the glory of God. And that we, too, are filled with the glory of God.
It’s worth emphasizing that Jesus’ transfiguration happened when he was in prayer – when his heart was focused on God. And it can be argued that Jesus’ heart was always focused on God. But in that moment, it was just him and God.
And it’s a reminder for us how important time spent with God is – especially time spent in prayer. Because with all of the distractions in our lives, our hearts are sometimes pulled in a million different directions. And when that happens, it keeps our hearts from being focused on God.
This isn’t to say that our prayers alone will be enough to stop Putin, or prevent another surge in Covid numbers, or change the heart of the Texas governor, or prevent all of the other stressors in our own lives. But our prayers do help us recognize God moving in our lives and in the world around us.
They ease the weariness that overtakes us, and give us the hope we need to continue the works of healing that our world needs.
There are already stories emerging about people who are receiving the waves of refugees fleeing Ukraine. There are stories emerging about people who are reminding the Texas governor that being Trans* is not a crime, and that people who are Trans* are loved. There have been stories over the last two years of the people who remind us how important it is to show our care for one another simply by wearing a mask when you’re asked to.
And we each have our own stories to share about people in our lives who have shown up when we ourselves needed healing. People who have helped us find hope, who have helped us find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, and who have encouraged our faith when we were exhausted.
People who have shown us that the glory of God knows no bounds. That it shines through them, through us, in every place that fear and hatred are opposed. In every place where healing happens – no matter how insignificant it might seem.
As we close out this season of Epiphany, and look toward the season of Lent, my prayer for you is that you recognize the glory of God at work in your life and in the world. And most of all that you recognize it within you, wherever you happen to be. Because it’s there. Thanks be to God! Amen.