I confess that Transfiguration Sunday is one of those days in the church calendar that I hope falls on a Presbytery weekend, because I hope someone else will have to preach on it. It’s a matter of what new thing can possibly be said. Here are two basic understandings of the Transfiguration story:
- This experience includes a visit from Elijah and Moses – both long dead, but they seem to show up here. Why? For Jewish Christians especially, this shows that Jesus fits into the long faith tradition – he is a fulfillment of the Law – represented by Moses, bringer of the 10 commandments, and the Prophets – represented by Elijah, well revered, and thought to be the herald of the Messiah. Even today, at the Jewish Seder meal, an extra glass of wine is poured for Elijah – just in case he shows up.
- The story of the transfiguration follows the first prophecy in which Jesus speaks of his own suffering and death and calls the disciples to pick of their cross. This is something they, and we, would rather not deal with. The Transfiguration may be the ultimate shining moment, but it is not disconnected from the shadow of death and suffering. It perhaps though, is enough to sustain these disciples when things really seem to go sideways leading to suffering and death for Jesus. They can go back to this moment and affirm that indeed it was right to leave everything and follow him in ministry – even if they fall away for a time.
What’s catching my attention though is this little parallel passage from 2nd Corinthians. I had Kris read it from the paraphrase called `The Message’ for some of its particular language which I’ll get to.
In 2 Cor. Paul says that the gods of this world draw our attention away from noticing the light of God. There is much in the world to divert our attention from God and the gospels. These are things that do not bring life – I just got an unsolicited fashion magazine and am gob-smacked by the billions $ spent in the cosmetic and fashion industry never mind the multi-billion dollar military arms industry. So many little gods that claw and clamour for attention, that Divine Light gets lost in the smoke –screen.
Paul says” If our message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in anyway. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention… They are blind to Christ, who give us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.”
We have this treasure to share, Paul says, but it doesn’t get noticed because it is carried in earthen vessels (clay pots). It’s clear that we are not the `glory and glamour’ but what we offer is something beautiful and eternal and healing for the world. It is something to wonder about, to be in wonder about. It is a different perspective than what the world offers – either in 1st century Palestine, or 21st century Sicamous.
Sometimes in the Word For All Ages’ part of worship, I use the term `I wonder’ to invite us to think about how the story connects with our experience or how the Spirit moves in us. Used in that way, the word `wonder’ can have a sense of beauty and mystery. Parallel to my working on the sermon this week, I have been reading Richard Wagamese’s historic novel “Indian Horse.” The young Saul Indian Horse remembers his grandmother saying, “We need mystery. Creator in her wisdom knew this. Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility grandson, is the foundation of all learning.”
But there is another way of using the word `wonder’ to obscure the truth. When video footage was shown of a 16 year old Palestinian – Ahed Tamimi hitting an Israeli soldier, after her 14 year old cousin had been shot in the head and killed, by another soldier, Michael Oran, an Israeli member of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, `wondered’ if Palestinian families were being `paid’ to have their children arrested. He called it `Paliwood,’ and implied it was all just an act to illicit Western sympathy.
I was appalled that the CBC would even repeat such… a statement. It doesn’t take much for one person to `wonder’ if something is happening, for the next person to say it might be happening, for the next person to say it IS happening, and in this case vilify the victims – against overwhelming evidence of military arrest, intimidation and abuse of Palestinian children – some as young as 12 years old. Thus the `No Way to Treat a Child’ campaign, supported by the United Church of Canada, among other church denominations. I invite you to sign the petition today if you have not done so already. By the way Ahed was arrested and just `celebrated’ her 17th birthday in prison.
We hold this light, this treasure in the plain clay pots/ earthen vessels of our lives and it is up to us whether we will shine than light, or obscure it.
Again from the Message, Paul’s words, “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness… You know for yourselves, we’re not much to look at.” 2 Cor. 5, 7
So… I think of this little congregation. When is the last time we were asked to speak at Presbytery as a shining example of ministry? I don’t know if it’s ever happened. But I can say that in 31 years of ministry, don’t know of another congregation that gives as generously to the wider community, and the world beyond our community, than Sicamous United Church.
As a congregation – `we might not be much to look at’ but each of us carry the spark that is Divine Light. It’s in passing the toque last week to help someone with groceries, it’s in the comradery in the Thrift Shop sorting room, it’s in the prayers we offer for the world, our families and community, it’s in the way we try to honour our volunteers, and invited the community to celebrate their diversity, it’s in the WELCOME message that Harold shoveled in the snow… We do these little things not because it’s fashionable, but because it’s faithful. We wrestle a blessing from the scriptures and try to live as disciples of Jesus here and now. As the beloved disciple Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us, “We can do no great things, but we can do little things with great love.” Yes, yes we can. Amen.