Did you see the trees yesterday? My social media feeds were filled, for a time, with photos and glad remarks from friends who stopped what they were doing and took note. The afternoon sun passing through ice-encased twigs was perhaps the best after-effect of Friday night’s weather. Driving along a country road on Saturday was like driving through a jewelbox, all glittering crystal. I thought it looked like a hymn. My daughter and I debated how you might paint such a marvel. These curves and branches - the shapes had seemed so dull and ordinary, late-February drab fading into the background just a few days before. Yesterday? Glorious.
This is transfiguration: that which surrounds us everyday, elevated, made more beautiful. For a while, holy imagination reigns and we can see the glory.
And then we round the curve into town, and pull into the garage, and somehow it’s all still there waiting for us. There is still homework to be done, a sermon to be finished, dinner to be sorted out, and the cats have an opinion about the state of their litterbox.
There are the times when your holy imagination is filled with sunsets and mountains, crystalline trees and freshly-washed baby, hope and newness and the glory of God. The stuff of life, transfigured. Flesh, milk, water, bark, sunshine, photosynthesis, DNA, …which coexist with diapers, spitup, sweat, dirty litterboxes and the desperate need for sleep.
Jesus took his closest followers up the mountain to pray, and Luke tells us they were so gosh darn tired they were ready to drop. There are the times when human limitations tell holy imagination to stuff it. Aching muscles, tired of paying attention, do we have to do this now?
Yes, now. Even though we are tired, and smelly and messy, just ordinary human beings. He wants to do this now. Right now is the time for glory to meet our footsore, fumbling attempts to follow.
Now, with the arrival of Moses and Elijah, their faces shining, reminding us of the law and the prophets. Now, says the descent of the cloud, and the voice from heaven, “this is my chosen; listen!”
Now, say the desperate needs of those in distress, waiting at the foot of the mountain. There are more and more of them gathering. Do you not see their faces shining, too? He says, “These are my chosen, listen!”
He has been talking transfiguration for some time now, about elevating the ordinary, the lowly. He has been saying it this whole journey. This is his mission. He said it in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are those who weep. Blessed are those who are mocked because they follow me,” he says.
Bless them, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Where the world sees the bottom of the heap, the unworthy, the outsider, proclaim blessedness. Announce an inheritance. Inclusion. What has been called broken or less than, name as worthy and whole.
Bless them. Bless the struggle and those who are struggling.
This is Transfiguration.
Chapters ago, weeks ago in our readings, months or years ago in his ministry, Jesus preached it in a sermon on the plain. It went over great with the crowd, and they gather, the ones who hurt, seeking a blessing. They bring their wounded. When they cannot quite reach Jesus, they reach out to those who seem near to Jesus and they ask, “what is to be done?”
But we disciples still find ourselves somewhat befuddled. We follow around in his wake, trying to listen, trying to understand, trying to not slide back into survival mode. We do not quite know what to do with Jesus’ blessing words. They’re confusing. They run counter to the messages you hear from the powers that be. It’s tiring to sustain that sort of resistance to the prevailing atmosphere.
So, yes, says Jesus, absolutely, the time for Transfiguration is now. No time like the present: the last Sunday in February in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen.
There is brokenness and blessedness and it is all tangled up in the same world, in the same people, in the same circumstances. Best get up to the mountaintop where we can see it well. You are a disciple. Let this moment change you. Let it work in and through you so the Beatitudes are no longer just words, so you can see the blessing shining in the faces of the blessed ones.
At the bottom of the mountain, they wait: Those who bring their struggles to Jesus and say, “here you go, now what am I supposed to do about this?”...Those who feel like they have been beaten up by the vile spirit of this world, who every time they try to make their way to some kind of faith or understanding, end up knocked to the ground again, black and blue…They suffer. They struggle. They search for a way through, a way out.
And you, who are a witness to Transfiguration, you who now have Beatitudes in your ears and your eyes and your soul, have a gift to offer. If you dare let it unfold, if you carry Holy Imagination back down the mountain with you, there is a blessing.
If you ever question whether it is your job to offer that blessing, to be that blessing?
You, Christian, would not presume too much, to remember that you were invited to climb the mountaintop and pray. That you, the baptized, in addition to your given name, are also named Chosen, Beloved.
The time for Transfiguration is now.
You have the capacity to see as Jesus saw.
You have the capacity to bring the blessing.
Let yourself see it.
A sermon for Transfiguration Sunday (Feb 26 2017) text Luke 9:28-45.
Preached at McFarland UCC