“Transfigured” Colchester Federated Church, March 3, 2019, (Luke 9:28-36) Transfiguration Sunday

There was a lovely moment at the beginning of the Oscars last Sunday.  Regina King won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  She was wearing a beautiful long white gown and her heels got tangled in her dress as she was seated and then stood up after her name was called.  This situation caused her to pause to regain her balance before even attempting to walk up the stairs and onto the stage.  Meanwhile Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) was seated near her and saw that she was having trouble.  So he quickly stood up and offered Regina King his arm to steady her as she walked up the steps.  She smiled in gratitude and it was a really sweet moment.

What was interesting though is that Chris Evans helping Regina King at the Oscars was trending on Twitter for hours with people commenting that chivalry isn’t dead and praising him for being so kind and helping someone at the ceremony.  All of that is true.  But it’s fascinating that this uncomplicated act of simple human decency made such a big impression on people in a show that was full of interesting moments.  It may just emphasize that the times we live in can feel so toxic that we long for sweet and sincere moments.  For moments when we see people have each other’s backs and jump up to help somebody not fall at an event as important as the Oscars.

Humility and servanthood seem to be a lost art these days.  People often delight in our power and might instead of moments and actions that make us vulnerable and open to the strangers in our midst.  We like being the best.  We like feeling invincible.  But if we truly take to heart the message of Jesus, we know that we Christians are called to be different from others.  We are called to live the Kingdom values that Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Plain we’ve been hearing the last few Sundays—to do to others as we would have them do to us.  To forgive.  To do good and lend expecting nothing in return.  To be compassionate just as God is compassionate.  We are called to serve both friends and strangers alike—being servants in the service of others.

In today’s Gospel lesson from Luke Chapter 9, Jesus goes up a mountain with his disciples Peter and John and James to pray.  They are isolated and alone, just the four of them.  Suddenly while Jesus is still praying, he’s transfigured before their eyes.  In the story, we see that his clothes became dazzling white and the appearance of his face changed.  Out of nowhere, the Prophet Elijah and Moses himself appear in all their glory, talking to Jesus about what was to come—his death and resurrection.

Peter ends up saying to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”[1]  Peter (who always has a habit of leaping before looking) does not take the time to fully understand that the glory of his teacher, the man he has been following and learning from—Jesus of Nazareth—is being revealed before his very eyes.  That maybe he should pause and be in the moment.  Peter just wants to get down to business.  A cloud appears, and we hear a heavenly voice, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”[2]  We can assume that voice was directed especially at Peter and the other disciples.  But the cloud vanishes into thin air and we are left with Jesus alone again.  Jesus, Peter, John, and James walk back down the mountain after this miracle.  And these three disciples don’t tell anyone of the miraculous things they had just seen, at least not right away.

The thing about the Transfiguration is that Jesus does not stay up there on that mountain relishing in his glory.  Jesus comes down the mountain to be in the world with the lost and the lonely, the hungry and the hurting, the oppressed and the vulnerable.  Jesus comes back down the mountain.  Maybe this is also part of the miracle that we should pay attention to as Christians walking in his Way.  Jesus comes down the mountain with his disciples to serve people.  Right after his Transfiguration, a great crowd meets Jesus.  Within that crowd a panicked father comes forward asking for Jesus to heal his one and only son and Jesus does.  He gets right back to work teaching and healing those in need after he is transfigured before the startled eyes of some of his disciples.

His example can make us stop and think.  Jesus reminds us that we must look outside ourselves and go out of our comfort zones sometimes to accomplish acts of healing in his name in our own ways.  We need to shelve our pride and get out there with the people who are still lost and lonely, hungry and hurting, oppressed and vulnerable.  If we minister to others and allow others to minister to us in return, amazing things happen.

If we’ve ever paid close attention to our church’s monthly newsletter, The Crier, we’ll notice that when the staff of our church is listed on the front page of every issue there’s an important distinction about the ministers here in our congregation.  The Crier states, “All of the Members of the Church are called to serve in daily life” under the title of Ministers.  Yes, I am listed as Pastor and that is my role here.  But we believe in the Priesthood of All Believers and that all of us are called to serve in our daily lives.  That sentiment long predates most of us who are staff members at CFC.  For we know that Jesus ministered to countless people in the Gospels and walked among them, and he called his followers to minister to others in his name.  He didn’t allow Peter to build a comfortable house for him on top of any mountain, not when people were in need out in the world.

There’s something miraculous about coming down our own mountains and getting out into the world to serve others.  There’s something amazing about the reminder that every single one of us is called to serve in daily life.  An inner transformation occurs when we truly serve one another.  Somehow you’re different afterwards, and you begin to see the world differently.  We begin to understand that we are all God’s children and this understanding has implications for who and what we care about and how we live our lives.  We can’t stay in our own comfortable dwelling places even if that feels safer.  Jesus challenges us to get out there and serve others.  To be servants, walking in the Way of Jesus.  And sometimes we will be transfigured beyond recognition.

In the end, perhaps we can take to heart the timeless words of Ignatius of Loyola: “Dear Lord, Teach us to be generous.  Teach us to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost.  To fight, and not to heed the wounds; to labor and not to seek to rest; to give of ourselves and not to ask for reward, except the reward of knowing that we are doing your will.”[3]

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Luke 9:33, NRSV.
[2] Luke 9:35.
[3] “Prayers by St. Ignatius and Others,” Ignatian Spirituality, https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others

Photo by Rev. Lauren Lorincz.