First off, I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes, and especially want to thank my wife for making the cake we had today and my son Wesley for decorating parts of it. This birthday is bittersweet for me, as we also were celebrating my father’s birthday, which just happens to land close to mine this year (he would use the Lunar Calendar to celebrate his birthday, which made it really difficult for us to ever remember when it was).
So yesterday my mom, siblings, and I got together to just reminisce, reflect, and give thanks for and celebrate my dad’s life. This is the first birthday without him, so you can imagine that it was kind of difficult. But after just a short time of that, we went for lunch and then went to the cemetery where my dad is buried and talked to someone about choosing a grave marker.
Whoops. It’s been like 7 months since my dad died and his grave is just bare. We never chose a marker. Quite honestly I thought my mom did a while ago and I was wondering why it was bare for so long. Turns out she was waiting for us to decide with her.
And you know what? It was hard to decide. I didn’t know that there were so many designs and icons and fonts to choose from. In fact, we spent a good chunk of time talking about it and we still didn’t decide.
I guess it’s because this is a long term thing. And for many, it could be the last thing that they can see of my dad’s, so of course we want it to be at least aesthetically pleasing and spelled correctly. Tough choices.
So the Transfiguration story has always baffled me and many other preachers and theologians alike. What is happening? Why is it happening? Why doesn’t it happen again? While I can’t really answer these questions, I always seem to focus on Peter’s reaction in his bewilderment. “Let’s build some huts!”
We often like to have some sort of immortal and imperishable memorial for our memories in case they fade. We like to have souvenirs to remind us of our experiences and adventures. We like to have something to hold onto those we might have loved and lost because then it’s like they’re still close to us. I get it, and there is nothing wrong with that.
And I find it interesting how as Peter is talking about building those monuments for Jesus and his friends, this voice from the clouds tells them “this is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him!”
What is so interesting about a voice from heaven? Well, it seems to me that this voice is telling Peter and the disciples that instead of building huts to remember, instead of gathering souvenirs as keepsakes, instead of creating some image to honour a memory, the can honour Jesus by listening to him. Remember him by allowing his life to influence their. Keep the lessons of Jesus in their hearts for the sake of the gospel.
I’m not saying we don’t need physical reminders of things, or we shouldn’t put up grave markers, or even that we should spend like half a day trying to decide on a font. But I’m saying that remembering isn’t only in looking at something or being able to physically touch it. We can also remember through our actions. We can see through our obedience. We can feel through our lives, knowing that we aren’t left alone, and that our connection to each other lasts forever, even after death.
So not only will I remember my dad by whatever grave marker we choose, but I will remember him through the man he has helped to shape me to be today. I will honour him by cherishing the love that he showed me. I will uphold his memory by listening to the lessons that he’s taught me, integrating them into my own life and instilling them into my kids. In the same way, we remember and honour Christ in our listening and obedience. We reciprocate the love shown to us by God through our service. We accept the grace of Jesus in our community, fueled by the Spirit, joined by the inclusion and welcome of God.
Let us together listen to Christ, the Beloved.
Have a great week, everyone!