“God is Revealed!
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
February 26th, 2017
Matthew 17: 1-9
“Hear now the words of scripture from the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 17, verses 1 thru 9”
1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 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.” 5 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!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 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.”
Let us allow the Spirit of God’s revelations, surrounding Jesus’ identity shine light into the darkness, while giving us new hope.
I was standing in line at the pharmacy at 4:45 pm, there were six people in front of me. The woman, at the head of the line, was lecturing her children. The man behind me was clearly in a hurry. I was trying to remember one of my moments of enlightenment so that I could share a mountain top experience with you this morning. I was hungry, tired and out of patience. I suppose this was what is called a human moment. The utopia came when it was finally my turn and my two prescriptions came to just $8. Sometimes, it is the smallest of things which can make your day.
As we begin our discussion let us consider how God is revealed in our own personal lives, each and every day. My trip to the pharmacy was a simple everyday kind of event. Nothing special about it at all. The challenge is to see the hand of God, the presence of God within it. Can you see it? How about during your trip, your adventure as you traveled from your home to this our place of worship? Can you see the hand of God within it? No? Take a closer look. As we live and breathe – what a miracle! Long before even the first scientific discoveries and/or breakthroughs occurred and were understood by human kind, our Creator had designed, fashioned and created humankind, with all its complex and delicate components… many still a mystery to modern doctors and scientists. Big Bang theory, or, evolution, the secrets of the human anatomy are still being uncovered. As you got up this morning, did you thank the God whom gave you your life?
Where else is God’s hand of love, compassion and mercy in your life today? Perhaps in that moment of peace, that sense of hope or that deep, deep sense of joy you feel in your heart?
Our Scripture lesson is an accounting of the Transformation of Jesus in front of several of his first disciples. The very essence of God, is revealed to us through this writing, just as the Divine was make known to the early disciples. As a scholar puts it, the moment, the ultimate moment on the mountaintop, when Jesus is described as: “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.” /Matthew 17:2-3/ It was “A manifestation of divine presence.” /David Lose”/ Truly, something tremendous occurred that day. Even if the details are perhaps puffed up a bit for affect, whatever caused them to record this event, with such superlatives, emphasizes for us how they saw Jesus in the presence of Moses, and Elijah! Divine presence… most certainly! Dramatic imagery connecting Jesus to the major prophets – the architects – of the early Jewish traditions and faith. This was the ultimate mountaintop experience!
A prominent theologian tells us how: “Most of us have had mountain top experiences and can testify to their importance to our lives. But all of us have also had to return to the valley. At both places, and all those in between, Jesus is there, reaching out to raise us to life again.” /David Lose/ Truly, we would if we could, but we cannot live on the mountaintop!
No matter how I speak of my wait in line at the pharmacy, it was just another moment in a long day, being reminded I need to take medications for my cholesterol and my allergies. Sure, God was there. Yes, I was pleased my prescriptions only cost a few dollars, but it was a stroll through another one of the valleys of life. When I stop, and talk about the deeper understanding of God’s presence, I can clearly see God in the midst of it all. Yet, it felt more like I was walking through the valley of life. Not a deep rugged one, but it did not feel like a mountain top moment.
Where are you right now? Are you in one of life’s valleys or are you on a mountain top. What is your mountain? Where do you find peace? What do you experience when you come face to face with the Divine?
Most of us have heard of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Roman Catholic Church has recently named her one of their Saints. She deserves the recognition from her church as a very saintly woman for sure! Yet, during most of her years, she worked in the deepest and darkest valleys that life can generate. Her humble, yet difficult work in the slums of Calcutta were no mountain top experience to be sure. Yes, in her legacy and at various points along her journey she is recognized as the: ‘Humble’ servant, admired by many. She helped the sick, the lame and the poorest of the marginalized folks, in that region of the world. “In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which had over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children’s- and family-counselling programs; orphanages, and schools.” /Wikipedia/ In the end, she died in the midst, in one of those valleys of life, doing her work as did Jesus. Their legacies live on – giving hope to the hopeless! Yes, Jesus and Mother Teresa have much in common. And yes, clearly, God was in her life and in her work!
My life has been primarily spent in the all to ordinary valleys of life. Although there are and there have been meaningful high points, and there have been numerous moments when God has reached out to me, still, it seems that most of the time, my journey has been in the shadows of darkness along the ordinary dusty roads of life. As most of you know my journey has taken me through the dredges of alcoholism and addiction; abuse and dysfunctionality. Yet, God’s presence and interactions along the way have brought me into the sunlight and placed me in the light of God’s grace and mercy. Compelled by the desire to give back; I have and I continue to give aid to those still caught in the shadows of life. The work of God is seldom done from a mountain top, but rather from the valleys, the ordinary and oftentimes difficult moments of life.
Even in the passage, after Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain top, the brilliance of the experience begins to fade. Jesus, once again, becomes all too human! Isn’t this what our lives are truly like? We have a moment where we can truly feel God in our lives… and then it fades from our view, and life happens! We are a congregation with diverse backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. We represent a number of generations and our combined ages cross many highs and lows within our culture and the world. Wars have been fought and won, yet with heavy losses and consequences. Deep recessions, depressions and stock market crashes and economic booms as well. Leadership changes and upheavals. Protesters in the streets, riots and we even have had our own horrendous Civil War. Each of these varying points in history has come and gone with its own set of realities of highs and lows. There is nothing dramatically new in the cycles of life in which we are now involved… except the fact that this is our time and our realities! Therefore, the here and the now are personal and crucial to our lives and the lives of those around us. The challenge for us today, is to take our high moments, at least their memories, and use them as we strive to work with others and to share our hopes and dreams with them… as we look to God to carry us through those darker times.
How has God been revealed to you? That is the question that needs answering today. We have this ancient memory, from our scripture text, of Jesus revealing his divinity to his inner circle of disciples. That helps knowing how others have experienced the presence of God. It helped the disciples as Jesus was surely preparing them for his time of persecution, his pain and his ultimate betrayal and cruel execution. Jesus, he knew they would need those high moments, those mountaintop experiences to pull them through their darkest valleys yet to come. This is why I am urging each one of us, to look at our lives from different points of view. Don’t let the hard times, the painful moments stop your journey of faith. Take pause, now and then, to find God’s hand in the midst of things. It truly does help!
Ask yourself tough questions now and then. Find time, along this trail of life occurrences and situations, to reflect on your relationship with the God of your current understanding. When have you become aware of God in your life? Was it when you saw the sunshine on your favorite spot, or the last sunrise that caught your attention? Was it that rainbow at the end of the past few days of rainy, stormy weather? Or was it the sunset that brought forth the full area of Natures creative powers, to put forth a display of color and beauty beyond the painter’s creative imagination?! Who knows, perhaps God will touch you in such a way, as you paddle around and out and about, in your paddle boat, amidst all of God’s living creatures. Whether it be on the canals, or the brackish waters of the waterway. The next time you see a dolphin jump in the water or splash while circling its mornings breakfast treat, think of how loving God must be, to give even the simplest creatures a moment of power and resolve within the simplest points of the cycle of life. How profound that the creative forces behind our mere existence, has paid attention to the smallest yet finest and most crucial elements of our being, of our lives, and of all that surrounds and supports us. Ask yourself, would such an entity, such a power, such a God, not wish the best for you, and be willing to be in relationship with you?
How has your faith been affected by the presence of God? During one of those more troubling moments, were you touched by the kindness or crucial words of comfort by someone… and you found yourself wondering: how did he or how did she know, I needed that at just the right moment. What about that day you got stuck at the stoplight when you were in such a hurry, and then at the next intersection there was a fatal accident? Had you been there a moment or a minute sooner you would surely have been in the midst of it all. Then there was the time you were at that jumping off point, all it would have taken was just the slightest node in the negative and … who knows what you might have done. But in the midst of it all, something profound happens like a butterfly, a really beautiful one, the likes of which you cannot recall, comes and rests on your arm or in a spot so close you could reach out and touch it? You know that feeling… “O my gosh…” Was that God’s intervention? You will never be sure… yet, your ponderings simply flutter in a space of awe and wonder.
No, we can never prove, without a doubt… how God has touched us today. Yet, how can one believe otherwise? Amen.