Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Glimpses of the Divine

I preached a sermon on 19 February 2010, Transfiguration Sunday. Here is a written version of the message summarized (this is not the preached sermon word for word):

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is the Sunday we remember Jesus on the mountain revealing His glory to Peter, James and John. The story of the Transfiguration is found in all three synoptic gospels. The one I used here is from Luke 9:28-36.

Jesus' Transfiguration is a glimpse of God peeking out. John Wesley describes the transformation as divine rays "darting out." Jesus' earthly form was only a veil over the divine, and Peter, james and John were blessed with a vision of the glory of Christ behind the veil. It was a glimpse of what would come -- one they never expected to see.

There are, in fact, a few points we can take away from thier experience. The first is blunt: if we take God for granted, He becomes ordinary. To the disciples, God was a distant being. They knew Jesus. He was a miraculous man, who did miraculous things, but as amazed as they were, they got used to it. Jesus became normal.

We see a modern-day example of this in an experiment conducted by the Washington Post in which Joshua Bell, a world class violinist played 45 minutes in a D.C. metrostation to rush-hour traffic. He was largely disregarded, and this premier musician, who had sold out a Boston concert with an average ticket price of $100, had collected a mere $32 in the violin case he uses to carry the $3.5 million instrument he used in this experiment.

The same thing that happened to him often happens between us an God. Jesus was an ordinary guy for all anyone could tell by just looking at Him. His appearance was, perhaps, unimpressive, but His appearance was not important. His power was in His words. Then Jesus took Peter, John, and James aside and they saw Him transformed from the form of a servant to the image of God in glory with Moses and Elijah beside Him and God's voice coming from a cloud all attesting to the authority and divinity of Jesus as the Christ.

God can be shocking. I imagine Peter's internal monologue was something akin to, "Wow, I didn't see that coming!" The experience was completely unexpected even though he had already declared his belief in Jesus as the Christ. We declare our faith every Sunday in the mystery and miracle of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Maybe we don't understand it. Maybe we take it for granted. Maybe we just don't think about God being mixed in with the everyday. We don't expect to see Him there. So sometimes, when we get too comfortable with God, He comes up behind us and hits us in the head with Glory (WHACK!). Our response, like Peter's, is often, "Wow, I didn't see that coming." Peter's audible response was less than profound, but he was human; and as humans we don't often know what to say to God. But  God knows what we need and when we need it.

Sometimes the moments we are closest to God are the ones when we are quiet apart. When we can be away from distraction, make God our priority, and turn all our focus to Him -- like here with the three disciples. Their experience was special, and it is one we might have ourselves, if we are open to it. In quiet moments, Christ shines in our hearts. We are illuminated from within, when we make ourselves open to Christ's grace. It is a radience we can feel.

But the God experience is both personal and corporate. We don't just experience connection with God in a booth off by ourselves. Christ said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) not "Iam the light of individuals only." We need Christ's community, our church family. For John Wesley, religion was social. His transformative moment came diring a worship service. Christ also said, "Let your light shine before men." (Matt 5:16) The Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations. We do that by taking the God-shine in our hearts and sharing it with others.

The Transfiguration is our "wow" moment when we get a glimpse that reminds us that there is more to this than what we think we know and perceive. Christ came back down from the mountain because the job wasn't done yet. There was more to do before Jesus' ministry could be complete. When we reach Transfiguration Sunday we are at a transition. It is the last Sunday before Lent -- a season of somber, sober preparation as we move from Christ's ministry into His journey to the Cross. We are reminded to trust God because God has it all in hand. Over the next six Sundays we can look back to this glimpse of glory as a reminder of Christ's divinity. We can expect that divinity to return and know that it will never fall short.

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