Matthew 17: 1-9
By Pastor Tim Woodard, March 2nd, 2014
Our topic today surrounds this whole concept of change. And yes we are going to speak about the need for this church and most all churches to experience some degree of change; either right now or in the not too distant future. We shall also talk about how we, as individuals, need to change as well. But let us be clear from the start, the type of change we are discussing this morning needs to be transformative. It needs to alter who we are as individuals; it needs to alter who and what we are as a church, anything less than this is unacceptable and will not accomplish the purpose of meaningful transformative change.
As we enter into this discussion lets set some ground rules: First, change for the sake of change is not something to be sought after; change must have a purpose, a worthy purpose. Secondly, we must not allow ourselves to support that old, old saying “the more things change the more they stay the same.” If this has been your experience then let me assure you that no change was made in the first place. For example, some churches believe that if they ‘change’ the color or the texture of their stationary it will alter the amount of financial support members will give their church. Clearly, this is not a meaningful change! Changing the message contained in the letter… is what is needed! People want to know what their support is being used for and why; as-well-as how any change in their giving would increase the ministry of their church! When and how we communicate our needs to one another needs to improve, when we do that: that can be ‘transformative’ change. Things only stay the same if no real change has been made in the first place! Another example that may make this point crystal clear is the notion that a church can improve its Music Ministry when they change hymnals. A change in hymnals will not change the quality of the Music Ministry in any church – unless there is a clear and decisive decision to change how music is used during the service. A change that could be transformative would be to have more congregational participation in a hymn or more praise hymns used, or an improved effort made to have the music match the theme of the sermon – like our Music Director does every week!
There are many types and degrees of change and many believe that we can choose to change or not to change. Let me give you an illustration of this: pain or glory, anguish or transformation, each of these are often treated as choices; this may be, yet, isn’t the real issue or the worthy discussion better served when we recognize that such as these can, and often are, experienced as we face the fullness of life. People do not choose pain over glory, yet their actions may lead to one verses another. Whether we live our lives with fear and pain or with dignity and courage, fueled by a deep sense of trust and faith in the will of God in our lives, we shall, nevertheless experience all of what life offers to us. In our reading today, Jesus, the one we follow, offers us a glimpse of his glory; it is up to us to embrace it fully; and this may very well be a transformative change for many of us here today!
Rather than just ‘half-step’ the concept of having God in our lives, we can transform our willingness to embrace the fullness of all that God is and all of what God offers to us! When we do this, then we shall be able to also accept our lives as its truth and reality opens to us. Back in the 17th Century Jean de la Fontaine once said: “There is no road of flowers leading to glory.” Most of us do not wake up one day and suddenly everything is glorious in our lives! Yet, in our scripture this morning that is exactly what occurs as Jesus and his three disciples go up into a high mountain. “Jesus was transfigured before them… Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” Even as the disciples tried to respond to what they were seeing… a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”’
What are we to do with this passage? The first, of course, is to file this passage as another one of those unexplainable and miraculous accounts that clearly point to the man Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah as foretold in ancient Hebrew Scriptures. The second thing we need to do with this passage is to see how this astonishing revelation is relevant to our lives today and is the astonishing transformation story of Jesus relevant to our conversation about meaningful change? The answer is yes!
What element in our churches, what element in our lives needs to be transformed or changed? Let us take this discussion deeper into our reality as a church. For example: as we move closer and closer to merging our two styles of worship together, to accomplish the stated goal of sharing one ‘full time’ pastor between two churches, we must continue to focus on the difference between making a change for the sake of change, verses what is ‘transformative’; what is the ‘action’ that will move us forward and accomplish the goal! Just like all elements of life, action in of itself does not determine the outcome: however we do know that in this example a lack of action will not accomplish the ‘stated’ goal.
When we look to our individual lives we need to consider what elements in our lives bring us pain or anguish, and begin to consider what ‘actions’ we need to take to make a real change; a change that will transform pain into joy. In the world we live in we all need a savior; someone whom shall rescue us from the perils of the Twenty-First Century, don’t you agree? Perhaps you do not and if you do not then the concept of a savior, a Messiah as spoken of in ancient times does not apply to you. However, if you have come to the realization that you can’t do this alone, that is you believe that there still may be something or someone out there that can set things right in your life, in your church, or in this society we live in: then perhaps you are willing to consider buying into the concept of a Savior as a plausible need worthy of being desired and sought after. Certainly, we as Christians, we ought to be open to this concept, especial if we truly believe in Jesus as our Savior.
Having established the relevance of this piece of scripture we can feel reassured as we reaffirm our faith in Jesus. Moving deeper, beyond this vivid reminder that Jesus was viewed talking with the likes of Moses and Elijah, and that he would rise from the dead; moving deeper still we need to remember that Jesus was born human. Jesus, felt our human pain. He understood our anguish first hand. Jesus felt hunger and he thirst, just as we have felt. When we look to Jesus we can begin to have hope that this Son of God this Son of Man, can transform our lives just as his was transformed. This is worthy of our time as we strive to grasp the enormity and extent of what this all implies.
It matters little whether change comes suddenly or over a period of time. Immediate change is perhaps what we often want, but it seldom happens that way. Even if the change is sudden, there still is that adjustment period to the changes made. If one day we are poor and the next we are rich, it may take some adjusting before we learn how to manage our new found wealth with grace and dignity and a bit of responsibility. Even with this said we ought not to be fearful of change or in new found treasures. By the way, all treasures are not U.S. currency or gold. A person needing transformation may find that financial security is not involved in their transformation. It may be as simple as seeing the world, ones very life, in a new and profound way. This often happens to folks who have survived a heart attack, stroke or some such life threatening situation. Frequently such a person will find themselves setting new priorities, realizing that some things they once thought important were not nearly as worthy as they had once thought.
Knowing that the God of our understanding has been directly involved in major transformations, transfigurations even, as in Jesus’ case, ought to reassure us that our lives can be changed. We can move away from the fear that at times grips our lives and cripples our ability to continue forward. If we look around us we can see how God’s intervention has made a difference in people’s lives. If we are only looking for the bright lights and glitter we may miss these miracles. Change, as I said earlier, can come slowly and over time. The transformation can be just as complete, yet when the person arrives they will have had the opportunity to adjust and grow into those transformative changes. So as you look around, reflect back on what you know has occurred in a person’s life before you jump to any conclusions.
Remember, as you look to the future, even a small change can make a major difference. Where do you want your life to lead to? Are there things that are still left undone? Are you concerned that perhaps there are things that need to be changed or righted in your life and time is running thin. Rest assured there is still time to make changes, even if you are in that final orbit. Look to the transformations that God has already accomplished in your lifetime as you look back over your life. Without question, shifting just a few degrees can alter ones outcome, can change one’s destiny and most certainly affect our lives and the lives of those we touch profoundly!
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”