March 2, 2014
It wasn’t that long ago when many of us had never heard of the word “transfiguration.”
…but then there was Harry Potter!
For those of you a little rusty on your Harry Potter,
Transfiguration is a subject taught
at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The class teaches students how to transfigure –
How to change one object into another.
It’s known to be a difficult class at Hogwarts,
since there are so many variables –
the mass of the object, strength of the wand, concentration, and the like…
Students at Hogwarts start slowly, first changing things like matches into needles.
Gradually they work their way up to transfigure larger objects –
a chair to a cat for example,
or a teapot to a tortoise.
Transfiguration in Harry Potter is magic.
So is what happened to Jesus ‘magic’?
Did he learn some sort of a spell that allowed him to suddenly change the appearance of his face and clothes?
I don’t think it was magic – I don’t think it was a trick.
But I do think those who saw it might have described it as magical–
I think they knew it was beyond rational explanation..
Peter, James, and John saw a spectacular vision –
it was so unworldly that it was frightening to them.
It was a brief moment when the light of Christ was truly visible;
it was a moment when God shone through, in all of God’s glory.
And God didn’t just shine – God spoke as well.
They heard the voice of God proclaim,
“This is my Son. My beloved. Listen to him.”
Frankly I don’t think Jesus needed to have warned the disciples not to tell anyone.
I don’t think they were about to tell anyone –
What words could they have used?
Who would have believed them?
I mean really, would they be likely to walk up to the other disciples and say,
guess what we did this morning…we walked up the mountain
and saw Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah,
and his face and clothes were sparkling white,
and then? Oh and then God spoke to us…?
One of the reasons I think Peter wanted them to build tents
was to get them to stay awhile
so they could go and get the others to see too.
They knew no one would believe them.
But then just as they look up,
Moses and Elijah are gone,
the voice is quiet,
and Jesus’ face and clothes are not shining any longer.
One of my favorite lines in the play “A Streetcar Named Desire”
is one from the main character Blanche.
With wistfulness and wonder, she says, “Sometimes there’s God – so quickly.”
And isn’t that the case?
we get a momentary glimpse of God
looking at a spectacular sunset
or listening to an exquisitely beautiful symphony,
or looking at the face of the homeless person we’re serving a meal,
we get a glimpse – but as quickly as it comes, it goes away.
“Sometimes there’s God – so quickly.”
Oh so quickly…and then it’s gone.
If only we could capture a glimpse of that moment and hold onto it.
Build a tent.
Take a picture.
Peter, James, and John look around,
and once again they are all alone – except for Jesus.
And that’s a theme in the gospel of Matthew…
When everything else goes away, Jesus remains.
It is in Matthew where Jesus says,
“I will be with you always –
even to the close of the age.”
When it seems like everything else is gone,
Jesus will be there.
Jesus was on the mountaintop,
And Jesus will still be there when you come down from the mountain.
When the disciples come down the mountain,
the struggles of life hit them immediately.
They are met by a father of a boy with epilepsy,
begging Jesus to heal his son,
and he does.
When you come down the mountain,
when the visions of glory have faded away,
Jesus will be there
In the rough and tumble of daily life.
When your plans are interrupted,
when your hopes and dreams have been disturbed,
Jesus will be there
As you make your way through the disappointment.
When you wake up one day in Ukraine or Crimea,
and troops have taken over buildings and airports,
and your sense of safety is gone,
Jesus will be there
As you listen for news and pray for family and friends.
Tom Joad said it this way in The Grapes of Wrath,
“I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be ever’where—
Wherever you can look –
wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.
Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there.
I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad.
I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry
and they know supper’s ready,
and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise
and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”
Jesus will be there – at the very top of the mountain,
in the spectacular light that’s shining.
But Jesus will also be there at the bottom,
when the light has faded away,
and when it seems so dark.
Today we have 16 youth from our congregation
who are celebrating their first communion.
We’ve talked about how the bread and the wine
remind us of God’s love and forgiveness.
But especially this day I’d like to remind them,
as well as all of us,
that when we receive this bread and wine,
Jesus himself comes to us in the midst of it.
This bread and this wine
Are tangible, tasteable reminders
That Jesus is here now,
And that Jesus will be there…
When we are graced by spectacular mountaintop experiences,
And at the times we find ourselves in the depths of despair.
Even to the end of the age…he will be there.
For this we give thanks! Amen.