2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2
Well, it’s been another one of those weeks. Or has it been months? It’s all kind of blending in together lately. I don’t know what has been in the water I’ve been drinking, but it’s like everywhere I look, things have been going wrong. It seems like so many people I know and care about are either really sick or in hospital. It’s like there bad things happening all around me, like property being stolen or vandalized or damaged. The person I voted for wasn’t elected in this past week’s byelection. I ran into a long lost (and estranged for a reason) relative that I didn’t really want to run into and to be honest it was really awkward and uncomfortable. My son was at an ice skating field trip and he falls and breaks a tooth. And early yesterday morning my best friend tells me that mom had just passed away.
I know lately I have been talking about these kinds of weeks I keep on having, but I’ll be honest that this week (or month or more, it’s all kind of blending in together), I was tired, emotionally spent, and feeling at the end of my rope. I was thinking that maybe I should just reuse an old sermon for today, because I really didn’t feel like I had it in me to write something new. But then I read some of those old ones and man alive, I figured I better just take my chances with something new and current because all my Transfiguration sermons of the past can be doozies. Or snoozers, as it were.
But do you know what I mean? Don’t you ever have one of those days, or weeks, or maybe even months on end when things just don’t seem to go your way? When you just feel so burdened, so weary, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? You hear about and feel the pain and brokenness around you, you stand in disbelief at the horrific things that people can do or have happen to them, and you start to maybe feel a little broken yourself?
Well, if you had, then you know what I mean when I say I’ve been having one of those weeks (or maybe months because it’s all blending together).
So in these times in our fatigue with carrying all this stuff, we might get a little (or a lot) irritable. We might be frustrated more easily and negative in our approach to life. We might find ourselves with shorter tempers, perhaps snap at our kids more for things that really aren’t their fault, and just shutter and shake your head and maybe facepalm at the thought of this faithless and perverse generation.
Ok, maybe you wouldn’t use those exact words, but Jesus did. In today’s reading, in fact. Jesus, who was just fresh from being transfigured as one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, hut-building-worthy sights you’ve ever seen, is approached by a random dude asking for a solid. And Jesus shakes his head and mutters something about this faithless and perverse generation. I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me that sounds pretty frustrated.
I mean, this random dude didn’t really deserve to be called faithless, did he? I mean, he did approach Jesus after all. He must have believed in some way that Jesus would be able to do this healing thing for him, and as it turns out, he was right! His belief in Jesus’ power turned out correct, yet Jesus calls him faithless?
Or was Jesus referring to his disciples for not being able to heal the kid? Maybe he was frustrated with them for not being able to swing it even after hanging out with him for so long? Perhaps he was annoyed with how his mojo hasn’t rubbed off on them at all?
Or did Jesus mean everyone around him was being faithless? I mean, he did call it the whole generation, after all. Was he saying that all the people crowding around him, looking for a handout of some kind, hoping for a miracle, trying to just graze against Jesus’ cloak thinking that maybe some of his power would leak out onto them and bring them out of whatever funk that they’re in, were acting in a way that was frustrating to him and be regarded as faithless?
Perhaps, Jesus sees how people see him. People all around him were going through things, they were having those weeks or those blended together months, and they were reaching out to Jesus as a problem solver, a miracle worker, a genie in a bottle that they can get three wishes out of. They wanted Jesus to fix everything that was wrong with their lives. Sure, having your only child really sick on the verge of death is reason enough for prayer, but from the sounds of it, people from everywhere wanted a piece of the action as well. I mean people were complaining about their own blemishes, their own oppression, their own poverty, and their own siblings not helping them out. People wanted Jesus to do something about their issues and problems, free them from out of Roman rule, and save them from all harm so they can be happy and joyful and euphoric.
I can see this being the case, I mean as the saying goes, once the elevator starts to fall, everyone prays. And really there is nothing wrong with prayer or asking for help or knowing that we can’t do everything on our own. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. I think the problem is when that is the only way we can see God present in our lives, that we can only recognise God in the happy and joyful and euphoric, when we think God is only helpful when we are helped the way we want to be.
That was Peter’s problem. He was there witnessing Jesus being transfigured and being greeted by Moses, the one who carried God’s law and Elijah, the one who carried God’s word, and he wanted to build huts there in order to capture the moment and preserve it for all time. He wanted to hold that moment, that image, that perfect picture of what he wanted Jesus to be. He wanted his Jesus in his little Jesus-shaped box that he could carry around and peek into whenever he needed a pick-me-up.
And I guess I don’t blame him. I mean a transfiguration like that would be a sight to see. I’m pretty sure if I were there, I’d be pulling out my phone to take a picture and you know, post it or something. I would want to hold onto that moment too, and maybe even share it for the likes.
But as Peter was expressing his hut goals, a voice from heaven interrupts him and declares Jesus as God’s chosen Son, and that they all should listen to him. This voice stops them in their thinking that this is the only way they could see Jesus and tells them instead that Jesus can be seen in a multitude of different ways as long as they listen. This voice of God, the one that gave Moses the law, the one that spoke comfort and freedom to Elijah, the one that spoke the stars in the sky and the earth into being, told these disciples to listen, to see, to hear, and to recognise.
For while God is present in the glorious and magnificent, so God is present in the ordinary and mundane. While God is present in the healing and miracles, God is also present with the sick and downcast. While God is present in beauty and joy, God is also present and walking with us day to day, in the normal menial tasks, in the things that we might never take notice of at all, ready to surprise us with a word of grace, an action of love, a moment of awe-inspiring, God-filled wonder that could just floor us as we say, “wow”.
You might even call these “God moments.”
Moments in the midst of the cloudy muddiness of life which we see God living and acting most clearly. Moments in the hopelessness and frustration which we feel God’s presence and hand and work in our lives. Moments in which even the toughest days, weeks, or months could seem manageable because we are reminded of how loving, gracious, and merciful our God is.
At the end of this long and tough week I still had to think about the Food and Faith evening we had this past Friday. And to be honest I thought long and hard about postponing because I was tired, the expected turnout was much less than last time, and well, this past week was this past week. But I didn’t, I am so glad I didn’t. Because again, as God is revealed in surprising and unexpected ways, God was revealed. I saw people who didn’t really know each other in lively conversation. I saw people of a different faith conversing and being open to other perspectives and beliefs. I saw a group of people cultivating a relationship with people they, on the surface, wouldn’t seem like they would ever cultivate a relationship with.
If it sounds like I am promoting this Food and Faith evening, I totally am. Not because it is something that I am enjoying or really wanting to see take off, but because of the precise God moment that comes in the conversation and relationship building. It the God moment that I need after a long week or month as it is all blended in. It is the God moment that reminds me of the beauty of God that can be seen not only in the miracles, but in the simple candid conversation between two strangers.
This is what I believe we are to see on this Transfiguration Sunday. That while Jesus can appear as beautiful, like literally beautiful in dazzling white, Jesus can also appear beautiful in areas of life where we don’t expect to see beauty, like in sharing food with a stranger, having a conversation with and learning from someone whom we’ve just met, or putting up with and even loving someone that might not even like. Seeing these things happening in our lives at different times, recognising them as God moments through the days and weeks, being reminded that God is present, active, working in and through and around us, then shows us the peace that surpasses understanding, the joy of the ages, and the beauty of life that really is life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Perhaps you have had a God moment in the recent past. Perhaps you have noticed God working in and through you in unexpected ways. Perhaps you have been having a bad week as well and God offered you a word of comfort in a way that surprised you. If you have these, when you have these, lift them up. Cherish them. Recognise them for what they are, moments in which God is most clear, most apparent, and most active and alive in your life.
This Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday, as we head into the beginning of Lent, may we see God in and around our communities, our cities, and our country, that we might recognise the beauty bestowed upon us by the grace and glory of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.