8-20-17 “Glow on the Mountain Mt 17:1-13

To see a video of this sermon, and the blessing of the backpacks, click here

“The Glow on the Mountaintop” Matthew 17:1-13;  8/20/17

      The scripture says, “His face shone like the sun.”  The three disciples probably wished they had some eclipse glasses like we will have tomorrow.  Eyes are important. There have been all kinds of myths about damaging your eyes.  “If you roll your eyes like that they will get stuck in the back of your head.”  Or “If you look at a computer screen long enough it will hurt your eyes.”  Then of course there is the “don’t run with that it might poke out your eye” which may be true, but It could poke anywhere.   I wonder if looking at Jesus’ face hurt their eyes.  Looking at the partial eclipse can hurt your eyes. Jesus’ face was not just sunburned.  The disciples couldn’t bear to look at it because it was so bright.  A similar thing happened with Moses (Ex. 34:29-35, 2 Cor. 3:7,13).  Moses went to the mountain to meet with God who gave him the ten commandments.  After meeting with him his face shone bright- so bright that they couldn’t bear to look at it.  Moses put a veil over his face so it would not hurt their eyes.  It is apparent that one of the signs of the closeness of Jesus to his father was the bright, brightness of Jesus’ face and clothes.  Mark says his clothes were brighter than any earthly bleach could get them.  Luke says his clothes and face shone like lightning.   Matthew says his clothes were white as light.  What’s the big deal?  What after all is the point of the transfiguration.  In the church the feast of transfiguration is a holy day.  That day falls on August 6 in the Roman and Episcopalian calendar, but it was August 19 (yesterday) in the Eastern Orthodox calendar (last Sunday in Epiphany for Lutheran, Presbyterians and Methodists).  What is the big deal?       It is a huge deal that people know who Jesus is.  The transfiguration is a remembering that Jesus is no ordinary human with no ordinary task.  He is not just a good teacher- He is the Savior.  He is not just a good philosopher- the voice heard by the three witnesses said He is God’s “Son that He loves and our call is to listen to Him.”  He didn’t have ordinary people cheering Him on- He had Moses- the giver of the Law, and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets- Elijah.  Now we rationalistic Presbyterians tend to not expect God to do anything God-like.  We kind of like the ordinary, the expected, the routine.  Maybe the unusual happened, but if it did it only happened a long time ago.  We kind of like the predictable.  But that is just it.  Our lives are not predictable.  One minute you are perfectly healthy, the next you are stuck in a million person traffic jam on I-26.  One minute things are going okay- then the doctor tells you that you have cancer or early signs of Alzheimer’s.  One minute you are just having fun in the lake and the next you can be in the hospital with an injury.  But who wants to think about the bad things?  Let’s purposefully choose to think about the ordinary comfortable things- and regulate all things that might upset the applecart to the past.  God tries to tell us in many, many ways that life is not predictable.  You may be able to see that the roller coaster you are on has wildly high mountaintops and deep valleys to speed into- you may be able to even say that each roller coaster has an end of the line.  But let me tell you when you are on that roller coaster- at least for me- predictability doesn’t matter.  I challenge you to embrace the unpredictable part of life- and yes, embrace God who is both faithful and unpredictable.        The total solar eclipse, I think, is a blessing to us.  The eclipse reminds us that life is unpredictable and changing the regular course. Having seen one, I can tell you it is one of the most stunning sights I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen the sun rise on the Amazon and the Andes, the sunrise on the grand canyon- but they do not compare to an eclipse.  I was thirteen when I saw the eclipse at Edisto.  I don’t think I remember much at 13  except holding  a girls hand for the very first time in my life, and the eclipse.  You will remember this unusual event the rest of your life, if you enjoy it.  You can look away, or look down or even sleep through it.  You can convince yourself it is nothing.  That is the same with God.  You can find something else you may feel is better to do than give yourself to God- but there is nothing more important.  I think maybe Judas didn’t care what was going on up on the mountain.  There are people who won’t care about the most beautiful events in the world, or even the One who made them.  I think the Bible mentions an eclipse about twelve times, and each time it was an alarm clock to wake us up to listen to God, appreciate Him, and not go our own way.  You know when unusual things happen- like a baby is born, or a child starts school for the first time, scores in a game for the first time, or gets married, or a special trip where you saw the marvels of creation in the mountains or beach- they are reminders to appreciate God.  Certainly the three disciples were moved by the transfiguration.  It was not an ordinary event.  When God answers a prayer in a special way, when God helps you through a horrible rough spot-  a job loss, a divorce, a sickness or injury, problems with your children; when God helps you give thanks to Him.  In the face of the shaking of the normal look to Him.  In the face of violence and hate -from Charlottesville to Barcelona- it would do us good to have God’s peace.  Peace is not to be taken for granted.  It should not only be preserved, it should be pursued.  In Jesus day there was terrorism and hate everywhere.  It ended up with a full rebellion and a 1950 year exile for the Jews.  Jesus did not call for a fight against the unjust government but in the end He conquered the Roman empire.   In this story Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus.  Matthew doesn’t tell us what they were talking about.  Luke tells us that they were talking about his departure- his death on the cross.  They were strengthening Him for His hard call of going to Jerusalem to die for us- the fulfillment of the hope of the Law and the Prophets.  This unusual event of glory was preparing Jesus for the unusual cross.  It probably was encouraging for Moses to see Elijah who carried on his work who saw Jesus who carried on his.  Perhaps Jesus saw that it was not all up to Him.  We are His body who are called to change the world- not by forcing our opinion  but by love.        What makes you glow?  You know we speak of people glowing- but I am sure not exactly like Jesus.  There is the Blushing bride- glowing with joy.  I have seen people glowing because they got a great report card or a good job, or pride in their child,  or excitement about a positive diagnosis; I’ve even seen people glow with excitement because football season is just around the corner; But what about your relationship with God?  Does that set you on fire?  The earliest Christian art used to have these glowing halos about peoples’ heads.  At first they were just on the head of Jesus- then Mary, then people that we knew were close to God.  Truth is, we don’t need to keep God at arms length.  We need more of God- not less of Him.  It is pride and short-sightedness that keeps us running away from God instead of glowing in His presence.  In a dark world, we are to be transfigured.  Jesus said He is the light of the world- He is the transfigured one.  But so was Moses, Elijah, and there is room for you.  We are to be glowing candles in a darkening world.  We should be lights at school, lights at work, lights at home, lights where we shop.  The world does not need more darkness- it needs people to hold up the light of love and peace that come from God.  In an unpredictable world that shakes the normal- God gives courage.Â

BACKPACK PRAYER Lord, as you blessed the children- we in your name bless them.     Bless their learning- with truth and hope and things you value.     Bless their getting along- with teachers, friends, parents.  Help parents and teachers cooperate.     Bless them with safety and peace in a world that devalues these things.     Bless them with love.  May they not lose love, but may they grow in it.     Bless them with faith to teach them they can always depend on your strength and hope.     Bless parents who are letting go, teachers who work hard, administrators and staff- making it work May this semester glorify and honor you.Â