Sermons That Work

Put Yourself in the Holy Land…, Last Sunday in Epiphany (C) – 2001

February 25, 2001

Put yourself in the Holy Land – 2,000 years ago. Imagine that you are one of Jesus’ leading disciples. He calls you apart from your colleagues to go with him on what turns out to be a great adventure. You start walking, happily chatting, and following him toward the high country. At the start, you figure this is one more time when Jesus needs to get away from the crowds – to rest and refresh and restore his spiritual strength. You, too, are ready for a rest.

When Jesus leads you to the destination, you recognize it as a holy place of your faith-set apart for connection with the greatest meaning life has to offer – a place to encounter God.

You begin to think that maybe this is not going to be an ordinary retreat, even by Jesus’ standards. Suddenly you see Jesus changed – his face has changed and has become dazzling white. You are not sure what to make of this. But you know something extraordinary has happened.

Then, you are startled again to see the two most honored leaders of your faith, Moses and Elijah, long dead, standing there beside Jesus. You do not know what to think or do. Your friend Peter suggests setting up dwellings so they could stay there permanently.

But before anything else can happens, you hear the voice of God-“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Now you know the purpose of this adventure. Here is the answer to what you should do.

It is clear that you are not to look to Moses and Elijah-not to look back to the old, but to reach forward to the new, listening to this beloved one of God and listening to him only.

Then, it is time to go back down the mountain and return to the others. They will be the same, but for you everything is different. God has done a new thing. Everything in your life is transfigured – transformed – changed – to a new reality of God.

It should be easy for us, as followers of Jesus, to put ourselves in the place of James or John or Peter. We go through the same kind of adventure; we recognize the same Lord. And we hear the same message from God: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

We too have our “mountain tops.” Each of us needs places and times set apart for us to take a good spiritual breath. Often this can happen in the midst of worship or Bible study or prayer groups or whenever we gather with fellow believers.

The “mountain tops” of our lives are also represented by times when we are alone with only silence around us-not with a radio blaring or a television yakking or a computer clicking. This is our personal prayer time and time for meditation and reflection – being still so we know God for what God is, specifically, in our lives.

We, too, gain recognition and insight into God when we go to these mountain tops set aside as holy places and holy times for us to focus on God.

In the stillness of our quiet and solitude as we watch and wait we learn to see and hear what God says and does and how God moves us. The presence of God astonishes us in the beauty of God’s creation and the generosity of God’s love.

And we too listen most attentively to the beloved of God. In these times of quiet prayer and meditation and self-examination, we listen for the words and the truths of Jesus, our Lord. We do this through reading and reflecting on the Gospel message that tell us about Jesus and through studying the examples of the saints who reflect Jesus to others. We connect with the saints of old and the godly people of our own day and communities by opening ourselves to recognize the power of the spirit moving among us and those around us, changing lives to better reflect values of God s kingdom.

And, finally, we too must come down from our “mountain tops.” We must return from our times of quiet and godly reflection, knowing what is possible for us in every part of our lives. We can count on the amazing power of God to transfigure and transform and change what is old into what is new-what is ordinary into the extra-ordinary.

God’ s transfiguring power transforms what is into what can be. God can transform the common into the very special. Scripture is full of examples:
Noah – an ordinary man of faith – transformed into a supreme example of trust in God.
Peter – an impetuous character – transformed into a stabilizing rock on which God built the Body of Christ.
Saul of Tarsus – chief agent among the Jews dedicated to stamping out the followers of Christ – transformed into Paul the Apostle, the primary agent of God s ministry to the early Gentile Christians.
The man Jesus – transformed into the Christ the Lord.
The truth of the Gospel affirms that each and every one of us sinners – even if we are lost, blind, misguided, self centered, arrogant – can really be transformed into God’s beloved children and his faithful disciples.

God can transform our sadness and frustration and despair into joy and hope.

God can transform our apathy and lack of concern for God’s commandments into an active love that brings God’s kingdom more closely into being.

God can transform our weakness and fear into courage and strength.

God can transform our earthy, broken humanity into faithful members of the Body of Christ.

Through Baptism, God transforms us from sin to redemption, from death to life, from being hopeless to being saved.

Through the Eucharist, God transforms ordinary bread and wine into spiritual food that gives us strength to do God’s will and be God’s agents in the world.

We live our lives at the base of the mountain. If we have heard the transforming word of God we will continue to listen to Jesus our Lord and we will pray continually the collect connected with today’s Gospel:

O God, who before the passion of your only begotten son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Christopher Sikkema


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