Thursday, February 19, 2015

Transfiguration Sunday: Not fade away


It’s Transfiguration Sunday. And freezing cold. We start the service with a prequel, reading the story of Elijah’s exit via a flaming chariot.( 2 Kings 2: 1-12)
While we’re reading, Jeremy plays a few bars of Chariots of Fire.  And after we’re finished, we sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Then I read the streetlight passage from Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. When the small African-American town lights it’s streetlight for the first time, they gather round and sing Jesus the Light of the World. And so do we.

After we’ve read the Transfiguration story, (Mark 9: 2-9) we sign these words from Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us live  to set all free [12]
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

And then our reflection. I saw a movie last night, Imitation Game, and one of its repeated quotes is Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine. Just wanted to share that. Though it could apply to Jesus who up until age 30 was a bit of an odd duck, unmarried, still living with his family, working for his father in a small town.

And I read the names: Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; her husband, Mr. Deah Barakat, 23; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, the three Muslims murdered in Chapel Hill last week. Because we need to remember.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Today Is Transfiguration Sunday. Time for one final burst of light…..bringing the light by being the light as we’ve been talking about during this season..…one final epiphany moment of getting it…so what is it we get?

This story is at the very center of Mark’s Gospel…Jesus goes to the mountain top. Peter, James and John go with him…they see Jesus in dazzling white…(like the young man who will appear at the end of the story) Who is with him? Moses and Elijah…the Law and the Prophets…every Shabbat, in Jewish worship they read from torah ..the law, the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses and hafttorah…the prophets

A voice comes from a cloud…this is my son, the beloved….listen to him…it is the same voice we heard a few weeks ago, at the  baptism of Jesus…and the same words..

Peter, always with no impulse control,  wants to build 3 booths…wants to stay there…enjoy the glory..

But wait..Let’s back up…how did we get there?

To understand that we need to understand the context. To see what came right before this.

Beginning at 8:31 we read:
 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,[a] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[b] in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with[c] power.”
Jesus has told them his path lies towards Jerusalem. And the cross. Peter doesn’t want to hear it and Jesus says get behind me Satan because the temptation is to turn back. No one wants to go to the cross.
And now , here on the mountain,they have now seen the glory…but that glory is directly related to the announcement of his mission…the journey to the cross.
As for law and prophets, it’s easy to miss that the job of the prophets was to bring people back to the center of the law…and at the law’s center was justice…if the laws were followed, there would be no poor…
That’s why you can’t stay on the mountaintop, you have to come back down and get to work…

So…where is the light here? What are we to get?
1.Yeah, we have to go back down, but the mountain top experiences are necessary….we have to allow ourselves to experience them..for me that would have been  Christmas Eve a year ago (, when I felt we were being reborn. Or this year’s  No Place Like Home concert for the homeless…we need them, this mountaintop experiences…and to allow ourselves to experience them fully…in that light we see the promise of not only of what can be but what already is….
2. We have to come back down and get back to work….the work of the law…the work of prophets…knowing where it can lead…but allowing the glory to shine on us nevertheless
I have to reference Martin  Luther King,Jr. here. He had his mountaintop experience, and that amazing mountain top speech,
( right before he was assassinated  in Memphis …but also from Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn…it is the language of transfiguration, and the language of glory
…as he died to make men holy let us live to set all free….God’s truth is marching on…
Let that light shine …and keep shining..
For our offertory, Jeremy and I sing Storm Large’s Stand Up for Me , as our Home Band did at the benefit concert(
And we finish with  Not Fade Away…as in the light should not fade away... and amazingly, the congregation gets up and follows Jeremy and I as we march around the sanctuary playing and singing that much covered Buddy Holly hit. 

 And after our final circle of blessing, the service is over.

And almost immediately, those young Koreans are on their way in.

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