Sermon Feb 22, 2009 – The Transfiguration of our Lord

March 2, 2009 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Tonight is Oscar night.
They’ve been mentioning it on TV.
I guess they want me to watch.
They’ll have a red carpet outside and beautiful and famous people will walk down it
and have their picture taken.
They’ll walk inside the theater and if they are famous enough,
they’ll get a close-up on the TV broadcast.
Several people will be awarded a golden statuette
which will shine in the lights.
They will take their place among the luminaries,
among those who have outshone their peers
in the field of the movies:
the best in acting, or directing, or writing, or set design, or costume design.
The blogs tonight and the magazines next week will be talking about
who was with who, and who was wearing what,
and who was best this, and who was worst that.
And they’ll be talking about which stars shined brightest, on Oscar night.
If Jesus of Nazareth were to walk down that red carpet tonight,
if he were to take his place among the famous people;
or if he were to be present at Tuesday’s State of the Union address,
with President Obama and the powerful people of the government;
or if he had been the halftime show at the Super Bowl,
with millions and millions of people watching all over the world,
what would we see?
We might imagine that Jesus would outshine everyone,
like in the story today from the Gospel.
Peter, James, and John ascend the mountain with him
and he burns brightly with the light of God’s presence.
He stands and talks with the most famous people of Israel’s history,
Moses and Elijah,
the great Law-Giver and the greatest Prophet.
And then he is revealed to be greater than both of them.
Not only is he God’s servant, as they were God’s servants,
He is God’s Son.
We might imagine that if Jesus were to walk down that red carpet tonight,
or into the House chamber in Washington on Tuesday evening,
or had he been on the field in Tampa Bay earlier this month,
he would be the biggest star.
We are wrong, of course, but that’s okay.
I think it stems from our desire to bring honor to Jesus
that we imagine that he would be the most attractive individual present.
But Jesus doesn’t do things that way.
He doesn’t draw attention to himself like those other stars do.
He doesn’t try and impress us with his greatness – he doesn’t need to.
Or maybe it is a good thing that he doesn’t.
On that mountain when Jesus allowed Peter, James, and John
to catch a glimpse of him in the glory of his Father,
the reaction of those disciples was not, “Wow, cool light show!”
Or, “Nice bright robes, Master! What kind of detergent do you use?”
They were scared out of their minds.
If Jesus of Nazareth were to show up in this way at the Oscars
or at any of these other events
it would literally blow people’s minds.
But that’s not the only reason that Jesus doesn’t show up like this.
It is because you cannot have a relationship with him this way.
Jesus doesn’t try to impress people with how great he is
because he wants people to love him for who he is, not for how bright he shines.
He wants to lead people to God his Father
not by shining them into submission
but by loving them with God’s love.
It might be more attention-getting for Jesus to make a big splash
at the Super Bowl or the Oscars or whatever;
but then Jesus could not be with us in the way that truly mattered.
If he was making heads turn at the Kodak Theatre,
then he could not be at the Williamsport Hospital
with the dying man or in jail with the prisoner.
He could not be speaking in the words of Scripture
to the heart of a teenager who feels alone;
He could not be in the words of absolution spoken to a person who has sinned
and needs God’s forgiveness.
he could not be in bread and wine here today giving himself to children and adults alike.
He could not have gone to the cross to join his future to the future
of each human being who will die.
Jesus does not go where he will be noticed or applauded
but he goes wherever he needs to go for us.
So if this is not how Jesus normally operates,
then why this story of the Transfiguration?
Why does Jesus break from his usual routine of humble service
to show his disciples how great he really is?
Is it because we need to know in the midst of our darkest times
that the name of Jesus is not merely a flicker of hope but a burning torch,
a shining lamp with the brightness of a million suns?
Is it because we need to know at the hour of our death
that he will light up even that dark place with his brilliant light?
St. Paul writes,
“For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
who has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Here in these words which testify to his glory,
here in this bread and wine which is his body and blood given for us,
we have not only a glorious God to reflect the light of our adulation
but a light who will shine when all other lights have gone out.
It should be noted that St. Paul also talks about those who can’t see God’s light.
God’s light is all around them,
but Paul says that a different god,
not a real god but a false god, has blinded their minds.
Could it be that when we look at those who are famous,
when we always pay attention to what is exciting and who is hot and who is not,
we become blind to the true glory which wants to shine in our hearts?
But not all famous people, maybe not even most of them,
believe that their light is the brightest in the world.
I was interested to read before the Super Bowl that Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals
was not the only player in the game who was a practicing Christian.
Troy Polamalu, linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers,
goes to church every week, even during the football season.
Not on Sunday, of course; he’s usually busy on Sundays.
But on Tuesday, his day off work, he goes with his wife to church
at the Nativity of the Theokotos, a Greek Orthodox monastery
in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, for a service that lasts usually around four hours.
Every week, he along with lots of other people not as famous as he is
goes to listen to the words of the Bible because of what God the Father said about Jesus –
“This is my beloved Son, listen to him!”
He goes to receive the Holy Communion,
just like we do today.
And he doesn’t make a big deal about this.
In fact, I’m probably making much more of a big deal about it than he would,
for he knows that even though he’s a football star,
Jesus is a far brighter star,
the light of the world,
the light that can shine in our hearts;
his, mine, and yours.
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