Friday, February 12, 2010

The Last Sunday of Epiphany, Year C

Transforming Moments

Readings: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, 37-43

In “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul” a man named Richard shared a transformative moment from his life. He was going into the subway in a large city. There was the usual rush of the crowded station, but people were, as usual, anonymous, keeping to themselves. An elderly woman called out from the top of the elevator. “Good morning!” She went up to one man. “How are you this morning?” He nodded and moved on. Unpreturbed she shouted across the tracks. “How are you all?” Richard found himself caught up in it. He shouted back, “I'm great!” Then he watched as she disappeared back up the escalator. He got on his train and found himself sharing a pole with several people. He simply couldn't help himself. “Good morning!” he said to the woman next to him. She looked at him rather tentatively. He shared the story about the woman in the station. People began to talk about it. “Do you think she was an angel?” one of them asked. Richard agreed. After all, isn't that what angels do? They carry messages to people. All of the people in the car became animated, laughing and talking and greeting one another. As she went to leave the train, the woman thanked Richard for sharing a moment of joy in what was usually a rather humdrum part of her day. It was moment of transformation that those people will carry with them. Who knows what lives it changed?

On this last Sunday of Epiphany Scripture focuses on stories of transfiguration experiences. The first is the account of Moses returning from the mountain. He is changed as he returns from his encounter with God. His face shines from the experience. Of course his face shone. He had seen God. In fact it shines so much that it causes fear in Aaron and the Israelites. In further encounters with God he finds it necessary to mask himself when he returns. The story reinforces the importance of Moses as the one called by God to act as mediator and to speak the ongoing messages from God. The message coming from Moses is alive. It brings life and light to the people if they are willing to hear it.

Paul too finds that his encounter with the risen Christ transforms all who experience it. He finds himself unmasked when he turns to Jesus. There is a new relationship. There is a new freedom. He sees Christ in all of his risen glory. Paul knows that the more you look at the divine glow in Jesus the more your life carries that same glow. He sees it not in terms of ecstatic experiences but in terms of love and compassion.

And on the mountain of transfiguration, not only is our Lord changed, but so are the disciples who share the experience. It radically changes their relationship with him. In that mountaintop experience they catch a glimpse of the glory to come. They experience a moment of rapture. They hear the voice of God calling Jesus “my chosen Son”. Reflected in that same glory they begin to know themselves. They see all that they are meant to be. They are transformed into God’s own likeness. It is for them a call to action, a call to change, a call to be.

There are times in our Christian journey when we ascend the mountain with Jesus. There on the mountain top we come to know him in his glory. Reflected in that glory we begin to know ourselves, to know all that we are meant to be. For we too are called to the heights, to greatness. We are called to be transformed into God's own likeness. We are called to know the glory of God and to see it in our lives. Jesus Christ lived human life in such a way to show that it was capable of transformation. In the same way God will bring about such a transformation in the whole of creation. The guarantee of our faith is that it will be worth it despite all of the difficult and painful things that happen in our life journey.

The problem is we often fail to see the glory that surrounds us. And if we do, we don’t allow it to transform the dreariness of our lives, because to allow that transformation to take place would mean to change our perspective. All too easily we allow the problems in our lives, the fears, to take hold.

Is anyone afraid today? Is anyone troubled? Then today is a time to step aside for a while,
to find the quiet space in which you can pour out your hearts to God, in which you can climb the mountain of transfiguration and know God's presence as you pray and listen.

Today is the time to allow the ordinary bread and wine of our existence to be held up before God to be transformed by his love into the body and blood of Christ. It is the time to allow word and table to transform our hearts. It is the time to experience the glory of God that Jesus and the disciples experienced on the Mountain of Transfiguration. For we too are invited to climb the mountain, to experience the light of God shining in our lives and then to carry it out into the world where others may see it as well. We all have those experiences in our lives, times when we are transformed by the greatness of God.

There are such times scattered throughout my life. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I saw a double rainbow in the sky. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I watched the northern lights dance across the sky, when I saw the world transformed by a fresh snowfall, when I viewed the glitter of the stars piercing through a dark wintry night. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I stood on a lookout in the Rockies, looking out over God's wonderful creation.

I was transformed by the greatness of God at a moment of conversion when I realized the utter reality of God, through answered prayer, when I made my first confession, when I was ordained.

I was transformed by the greatness of God when Alice shared her last moments of life with me, when an elderly woman said, “Get out my brown shoes; I'm going dancing tonight”, when a child who was not expected to live past her first birthday came running up to the altar for a blessing, when an elderly man told me his childhood memories of his mother's words to him many years before as she lay dying, words that comforted him in his last moments of life.

I am transformed by the greatness of God when I listen to Handel's Messiah, when I hear the sweet voices of a children's choir, when I hear a great organ being played.

I am transformed by the greatness of God each time I hold the bread and wine out to you and invite you to come to the table. I am transformed by the greatness of God when we all join together to say, “Glory to God...” I am amazed because they are transformative moments in my life. They are glimpses of the glory of God, moments in my day in which the world is transfigured. They are moments when I know that God is reaching out to me.

Grace comes into our lives in so many unexpected ways. Our relationships with other people can be transformative experiences that transcend the barriers between us and God. There are times of disclosure when we allow others to really see who we are. Those are the moments that most clearly shape our lives. Without such moments others would never really come to know who we are. We would never really come to know them. And we would miss out on great insights into the nature and essence of the God we worship.

There is a purpose to the Transfiguration event. It gives a glimpse of the glory of God, something that we humans find impossible to fully comprehend. It was a great and grand event, the mountaintop experience. In sharing in it, although we find ourselves back in the valley again, we do so holding on to the memory of the transfigured and resurrected Christ. That is a memory that transforms our lives and allows us to share the light of Christ with others on the journey.

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