Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for March 8, 2011 - "Good to be here..." Where do we go after the Mountaintop?

I am late posting this weeks sermon, because life intervened. But that is what this sermon is about, anyway........

(Based on Matthew 17: 1-9)

Transfiguration Sunday provides a transition between Epiphany and Lent. Epiphany means "revelation," so what has Jesus revealed about himself so far in the last few weeks? He has revealed that we are blessed if we mourn; we should not worry about having anything to eat, drink or wear, and we should love our enemies. In short, he has revealed that his message will knock our socks off, and demand a total shift in our thinking. This was done on a Mount, too; mountains are always a metaphor for revelation, for a place where humans encounter the Divine.

The scripture for today once again takes us to the mountain. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain and is transformed before their eyes. He is radiant; he is in the company of Moses and Elijah; the voice of God booms, "Listen to him!"

Perhaps this was a literal event; perhaps not. It doesn't really matter to me. Certainly deeply holy, happy people have been known to be radiant. Mystics in prayer, a bride, a new mother... all are described as "glowing." Perhaps when the disciples saw how connected Jesus was to God, they perceived him as radiant. Perhaps they "saw" him in a new light: as the fulfillment of the prophesies of Moses and Elijah. And perhaps at that moment, they understood that they should listen to him. That type of revelation is just as valid.

Since I identify with him, I love the sidenote that Peter provides. Here he is, in the presence of the divine, glowing light and the voice of God, and he... interrupts! Hilarious. I can just imagine Jesus thinking, "Oh, Peter... REALLY?!"

Yet Peter's response is just beautifully, totally human. "Let's stay here!" After all, where does one go, how does one go back to mundane, every-day life after that?

Well, that is exactly what we are supposed to do. Head down off the mountain and carry the message and mission with us.

I remember being on a women's retreat at Mt. St. Mary; all of us were sad to leave and "go back to reality." Then we wondered.... maybe those times spent in God's presence ARE the reality, and it is our human world which is the illusion! Perhaps we had to hold on to that moment as we fulfilled our ordinary, daily responsibilities, and thus bring the presence of God into that world.

Still, that does not answer the question of how we integrate a mountaintop experience into the classroom, the cubicle, the barn, the kitchen, the gym, the carpool.

Perhaps WE do not do it. The experience changes us; we are transformed from within, one experience at a time, and all we have to do is be available to it. Show up in prayerful quiet. Listen. Don't interrupt. Be present to the experience. Let it happen. Transformation is not "work" we have to do; it will happen to us if we allow it.

There was a day at Hospice when I was present at the death of a child. When I entered the room, it felt stifling, crowded, although there were only 3 other people in the room with the child. I felt as though the room was so "full" that I could barely breathe... it felt like the presence of many spirits. The child roused out of his non-responsive state, and said to his Mom, "Mommy, they are all waiting for me; I have to go now." She lovingly gave permission, and he closed his eyes and died. At that moment, the room felt cleared. Everyone felt it. We were all in awe of the experience and changed by it.

As I drove home that evening, I tried to process the experience, wondering what do I do next? What does one do after a day like that?

OK... here's the truth: I made meatloaf !!

I had a son at home; he was hungry; I made meatloaf.

Can you imagine that dinner conversation? "How was my day? Oh, well, I encountered a room full of spirits who guided a child into the next life... ketchup?"

That's how God works. We are transformed, like it or not, and we take our new selves back into regular life. We will never see things quite the same again.

Yes, we make meatloaf..... but we are forever different.

Perhaps we should NOT give up anything this Lent. Perhaps we should instead try to receive something awesome. Show up. Listen. Don't interrupt. Be transformed.