2/25 - Pastor's Post
Sermon Summary, Sunday, February 26, 2017: The Transfiguration of Our Lord
First of all: Read Matthew 17:1-19, which tells the story of the Transfiguration! Or if you can't find a Bible, here's the link: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+17
The story of the Transfiguration tells of a remarkable experience which three of the disciples--Peter, James and John--had with Jesus on the top of a high mountain. Right before they were to journey with him to Jerusalem, where, as he had predicted in chapter 16 (and would predict two more times) he would be put to death, they had an amazing vision of Jesus in his resurrection glory, speaking with Moses and Elijah. But like so many "mountaintop experiences," it no sooner happens than it is over. The disciples go down the mountain and return to the "real world;" the first thing they experience is human suffering which the disciples who had remained below were powerless to alleviate.
Isn't that the way it often is in life? We have "mountaintop experiences," but they don't last very long. We savor our vacations, but spend most of the year in the workaday world. Years ago, when I was serving a congregation in the Philadelphia area I went to Fort Lauderdale for ten days during the midst of a particularly cold and snowy winter. It was like being in paradise. But all too soon I had to return to the Quaker City. What a homecoming! Ice on the runway, snow on the ground, and a temperature of 25 degrees (it had been 78 when I left Florida). The next day the sun didn't shine, and that evening the thermometer sank to 10 degrees. Welcome to reality! But the days of warmth and sunshine did me a lot of good, and somehow the rest of the Delaware Valley winter didn't seem as harsh as usual. Thank goodness for mountaintop experiences, even though we spend most of our lives in the valley.
But back to Matthew 17: one feature of the transfiguration account which always fascinates me is Peter's suggestion: "let's build three dwellings up here!" In other words, let's erect monuments. It's not going to last so let's at least commemorate it.  And that's what we'd like to do with those mountain top, or beach, or forest retreat, or ideal vacation spot experiences. Bottle it up and live from it when we're down in the valley or engaged in living our everyday lives.
But his suggestion is cut off in mid-sentence, so to speak. As we hear in Matthew 17:5, Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
Sometimes our experiences in church are like Peter's on the mountaintop. We're confronted with or at least reminded of another world, another reality. Reality is for a moment transfigured. Everything is bathed in light. (This really does happen on a sunny Sunday morning due to the way our transept windows are right in line with the morning sun's rays!) But all too often we're like Peter. Instead of wanting to run down the mountain and share the vision, he has plans for a grandiose building project to honor Jesus, Elijah and Moses. He's still trying to run Jesus' career (see 16:22, where Peter tries to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to die). Isn't that typical church behavior? Instead of sharing the vision we are too busy with everyday tasks, with trivial pursuits. We're more concerned about budget deficits that fulfilling the great commission. The church becomes a shrine, we go there to escape from reality, forget the pain and suffering in the world. Instead of being enthused about heavenly things we talk about things that nobody will care about ten years from now. Instead of appreciating the light of the world that surrounds us we insist on living by the artificial light of our own limited visions.
 But Peter did get one thing right. At the beginning of the proposal to build three shrines, he first said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here." And I would say the same thing about every worship service in our church, however mundane. It's good to be here! Not only on Easter morning or Christmas Eve but also on Sundays we might not remember years later. It's good to be here this morning. Every Sunday is unique, an encounter with the living God, who I am sure is speaking to someone in a special way that will be life-changing. One of us may look back on a particular Sunday service that otherwise didn't seem remarkable at all as the one which convinced him or her that Jesus is Lord. It is indeed good to be here.
So let's listen to Jesus! Let's stop trying to bottle up the "great moments" and live all of them! Let us not only listen but look; when we are discouraged and lost in the fog and mists of the valley let us look to the light of his countenance, from which we will gain strength to bear our crosses, whatever form they may take. The coming season of Lent is a time when we are challenged to grow in faith, to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to listen to him. Let us use this moment on the mountain top, this anticipation of his Easter glory, to gain strength and inspiration for our journey through the wilderness towards the glory of the world to come. And let us use the inspiration and challenges we receive in church to go down into the valley of everyday life and serve others in the name of Christ, helping them through our deeds of love to behold the light of his glory.
Pastor John Schweitzer
Last Published: February 25, 2017 10:38 PM
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