Sermon: While He Was Praying

Transfiguration 2 sunburst

Transfiguration

Luke 9:28 – 43

Do you ever have a morning when you wake up and you just want to stay in bed?  Maybe a day like yesterday with that cozy, thick, thermal blanket of snow coating everything…a perfect day to stay and linger under the covers, warm and protected.  A day when it takes a great effort to step out of bed and into the work and challenges of the day.

Or, Have you ever lingered in the theatre at the end of a really good movie?  Every Christmas for three years, I went with two of Bob’s brothers to see the newest episode of Lord of the Rings.  The music and visuals were so captivating that I was transported for 3 hours.  The three of us would sit there all the way through the credits until the very last note of the music stopped playing.  And even then, we would sigh, and sit a little longer….in silence.  We didn’t want to leave that world.  We weren’t ready to move on.

When I used to ski, the best part for me was the view from the top of the mountain.  I would get off the lift and ski over to some little flat place and drink in the beauty of the cold, crisp air, the majesty of the mountains, the endurance of the old gnarled pines, all pointing towards the infinitely deep blue sky.

I was never in a hurry to descend back down the mountain into the frothing flow of humanity lining up for the lifts, packing the cafeteria, clomping and bumping, boisterous, noisy and demanding, and sometimes, simply overwhelming.

Is that how Jesus felt?

In this moment of blazing light and revealed glory?  Do you think he wanted to linger awhile in God’s cloud, clinging to God’s presence, and be warm and protected?  For just a few more moments?  Does Peter tempt Jesus to linger in this sacred moment with his offer to build 3 booths and with his exuberant exclamation of awe-filled delight…”it is GOOD for us to be HERE!”

It’s not always easy coming back to the real world – sticky underfoot, trash strewn about, people shoving and jostling, noisy and demanding.  How much better to be like Puss and Boots and just magically skip from mountain top to mountain top and have all the glory with none of the hard work to be found down in the valleys, down among disgruntled, desperate, needy, complicated, and annoying people.

Poor Jesus.

He “went up on the mountain to pray, and while he was praying, the appearance of his face changes”...was it Exultant? Ecstatic?  Joyful?  Was he laughing?  How often do you imagine Jesus laughing?  His clothes become dazzling white…and in the midst of this blazing glory, Moses and Elijah appear and speak with Jesus about what lies ahead for him.  They talk with him about ‘his departure which he was to soon accomplish in Jerusalem’.

Talk about a buzzkill…talk about having to wake-up to harsh reality…

Poor Jesus.

Maybe Moses and Elijah are offering words of encouragement to get him through what is coming; just as Jesus has given Peter, John, and James this glimpse of glory, to give them encouragement for what lies ahead for them.

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, he brings Peter, John and James.  And while he is praying, he is transformed.  While he is praying, Jesus is transfigured, and the disciples can SEE the light of his Spirit pouring out of him.  I don’t think the light stops flowing when the disciples stop seeing it.  I think that light of Spirit is always flowing from Jesus…It is just that “since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory.” 

In a moment of spiritual wakefulness…there is a clarity of seeing what must always be there…that light of Spirit shining out into the world, a light that is revealed to them and transforms how they see Jesus…for a moment, transforms how they SEE.

 All this, while Jesus is praying….

Jesus is equipping the disciples for what lays ahead the best way he knows how…by demonstrating for them the power of praying….

So caught up in the moment, Peter is overcome by the impulse to “do,” to do something to capture this moment…it is so hard for Peter to simply “be” in that moment.  It’s the Martha/Mary challenge, learning to pause in those sacred moments when you catch a glimpse of glory…a hint of the holy…It’s important to stop and savor those moments because they don’t last for long.  Like Manna, you can’t put them in a box and keep them for later.  You have trust in God that there will be more of those moments along life’s journey.

Peter is inspired and moved to “do”…Jesus teaches us that sometimes it’s ok, more than ok, that it’s necessary and awesome to just “be” in a moment…We cling to our moments of glory because we don’t want to hurry back down the mountain into the frothing flow of humanity, bumping and grating against each other in the struggles of every day.

Even Jesus, when he comes down the mountain, vents his frustration at the inability of those he left behind to take care of people while he was gone.  Jesus knows that all too soon, they will have to carry on without him…

He comes down from sacred ground into the muddy, murky reality of every day life and he can see how hard it will be for his disciples to build God’s kingdom…how hard it will be to change how we think and act, and feel towards one another and towards God.

Just like the boy who Jesus heals, Life sometimes mauls our spirits and dashes our hopes and dreams into pieces on the ground..  Our negative emotions and disparaging thoughts and ideas can seize hold of us, poison us, drain our spirits, overwhelm us, cast us down, and break us.

Jesus knows life is hard.  Jesus knew the difficult road the disciples would follow after he was gone…and to bolster and sustain them, he taught them that when they gather together, to pray.  He taught them to withdraw alone from time to time, and pray.

He taught them when you are afraid of the path ahead, to kneel in God’s garden and pray.  Jesus showed them that transformation comes through the power of praying.

Prayer prepares us for what lies ahead of us.  Prayer grounds us, connects us, opens us, molds and shapes us…prayer prepares for us all that lies ahead of us each and every day.

People are complicated and challenging.  But Jesus comes back down the mountain because he love us.  Jesus comes back down the mountain because we are God’s beautiful and beloved children.  Jesus comes back down into the complicated mess that is humanity, because he knows how much we need him and how much we need what he has to offer us.  Jesus knows how much we need to see the light of the Spirit and experience the joy of God’s glory.

In the midst of Peter’s building plans, God covers them with a cloud, cocoons them, and says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; Listen to him!”  “Listen.”

Listen, because it is in the silence, not the fire, or the earthquake, or the whirlwind…that we discover God’s presence.  Praying has the power to transform us and to reveal the light of Spirit that flows from all of us.

God says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; Listen to him.”

Listen to Jesus.

The only way we can listen….

…is by being silent.

Let us pray…..

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