Benediction Online

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Sunday of the Transfiguration – The Rev. Donna Ross

Today we come to the end of the Church’s season of Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” comes from Greek – [the original Greek means ‘ to shine upon’]. An epiphany is a manifestation of God’s light, a sign of God’s presence, and the theme of this whole Epiphany season – from the wise men who followed the star, to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, to this vision on the holy mountain in Galilee – is this: Look! See how God’s light shines upon – and through – Jesus, the Christ.

Just last Sunday we heard about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – we heard him calling his first disciples beside the sea of Galilee; now suddenly we are with Jesus on the mountain – and with Peter, James and John we are witnesses to his Transfiguration.

(This year the calendar is in a hurry – it skips so much of Jesus’ ministry. But the calendar still expects us to remember all the ways God’s light has already shined on Jesus along the way – because Peter, James and John, as they look at Jesus on the holy mountain, certainly remember.

If we can remember all these epiphanies, we will be better able to imagine how the disciples must have felt that day on the holy mountain. So remember: his electrifying preaching in his hometown synagogue... And remember: all the people who came at sundown to be healed... and remember: the paralytic lowered through the ceiling...

And now, today, you are standing on the mountain with Jesus, surrounded by light, seeing the light shine through him – and you are asking yourself, “Who is this man with the Light upon him? And what does this mean for me?”

These disciples, just like us, are still learning. They’re learning how to “follow” [disciple means ‘follower’] – they’re literally following him on the road, and they’re also learning what he’s like, simply by being with him. They’re also beginning to practice what he’s teaching them – they’ve practiced preaching the Good news, they’ve reached out to heal the sick. they’re trying to follow his example.

But one day soon they’re going to need to do much more. They will need to learn how to receive the Spirit he’s going to send them, and they will also need to learn how to reveal the Spirit’s presence in their lives.

In fact, just as Jesus was transformed before their eyes on the mountain, they are going to have to be transformed as well. How will that happen? Remember: the disciples in the upper room, huddling together in fear. Now remember: those same disciples, preaching in the streets on Pentecost. What happened to them? They opened their hearts and minds to the Spirit he sent upon them, and they let that Spirit guide their lives.

How does that still happen – today? Let’s look at today’s collect again – here’s what we’ve all prayed this morning:

O God,
who before the passion of your only-begotten Son
revealed his glory upon the holy mountain:
Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance,
may be strengthened to bear our cross,
and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory...

How are disciples called, taught, and transformed – today? Think: Is there someone in your life who “shines” with God’s light? And think, too: Where/how does St. Ben’s light shine here in Los Osos? (I’m still learning about all the ways St. Ben’s light shines.... and so you need to tell me about those ways .... In fact, you can always practice on me and Rob!)

A story about an epiphany, a true sign of God’s transforming light: Thirty years ago, in Columbus, Ohio, Rob and I were active in Cursillo (a weekend experience of the love of Christ, a weekend-long class in discipleship) – and so we became part of a group of Christians who came from all denominations; these were our close friends.

One of our friends, we all learned, was dying of cancer. As he grew weaker and weaker, his last birthday was drawing near. His wife sent out cards to everyone she knew in Cursillo, asking us to come celebrate his birthday with him.

But, because he was so weak, she knew she couldn’t throw a regular birthday party for him – it would be too much for him. So she asked us all to drive to a bank parking lot near his house, park our cars there, and walk through the back yards to his back patio – where she would have him waiting in his wheelchair. There, she said, we could all sing him “Happy Birthday” – but she warned us that her husband would be far too weak for us to come up and embrace him.

So we did just that – we parked in the bank parking lot, we waited until everyone had arrived (over 50 people came!) and then we quietly made our way through the back yards to his patio. And there he was, in his wheelchair, with his wife by his side. We sang “Happy Birthday” and a few songs from Cursillo, and we were getting ready – just as his wife had asked – to quietly tiptoe away.

But then our weakened friend stood up from his wheelchair, and beckoned us forward – he wanted to hug us! And he did hug us, all 50 of us, before he sat down again. One by one, he embraced us, his face shining, his arms strong with love.

That was the day that I learned, in my own flesh, how powerful the transforming love of God is. That day, I learned that the human personality, transformed by faith and love, is stronger than death. From that day on, I have never doubted the power of the resurrection – not just for Jesus, but for us as well.

That day was an Epiphany for me. When was an Epiphany for you?


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