February 26, 2017 – Listen to him

Transfiguration Sunday    February 26, 2017   Psalm 99, Exodus 24;12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-19, Matthew 17:1-9    Listen to him ************************************************************** The voice of God speaks aloud from the cloud of presence. Again we hear from on high the same words we first heard when Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased...”  And now God adds three words: “Listen to him!” Familiar words where I live. Anytime I’m going out the door for a meeting my wife or my daughter is likely to remind me, “Remember – Don’t speak too much. And listen well.” And I’m not the only disciple who ever needs reminding… Just before this hike up the mountain Jesus has been telling disciples he must go to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and die, then rise from the dead. First round draft choice apostle Peter says“God forbid it Lord! This must never happen to you.” Jesus rebukes him, saying, “Get behind me Satan,” and continues talking about the need for disciples to take up their cross and follow him. Soon after he and these disciples come down from the mountain Jesus tells them again – he is going to his death. Jesus has to say a lot of things like this more than once. We’re not always good listeners. And I can identify with Peter. I know I need frequent reminding – to say less – and keep listening to Jesus… Sometimes we can be so busy giving Jesus our Prayer List, our Wish List… our advise on how to run the universe…. Sometimes we get so into speaking to Jesus that we’re not doing much listening to Jesus… Sometimes God has to resort to a little drama to get our attention…(So…) Jesus takes three disciples up the mountain with him. There he’s transfigured before their eyes – shining bright as the sun – clothes dazzling white – flanked by Moses and Elijah of old, talking with him… That’s probably enough to have his disciples feeling shaky… Though Peter manages to sound brave, as he offers to build little mountain huts for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But while he’s talking, the voice from out of the cloud interrupts, causing disciples to fall to the ground in fear and trembling… The word of God can be frightening at times. When the law was first given,  Mt Sinai was all covered in cloud and fire, and people were so afraid they asked Moses to ask God not to speak to them anymore, except through Moses…. Now Moses has re-appeared, along with Elijah the prophet, talking with Jesus…Who is shining with the light of God’s glory – transfigured, meaning transformed – in the Greek the word is metamorphosis… Foretelling the metamorphosis Jesus will undergo as he puts on his resurrection body. And the voice from the cloud names Jesus Beloved Son of God… Saying Listen to him… Causing disciples to hit the ground trembling… *** And…the next word we hear is the voice of Jesus, saying Get up…and… Do not be afraid. Jesus of course has much more than this to say, and we need to listen and hear all he says. But when times are difficult – when fears arise – remember especially what Jesus says on the mountain: ...

read more

February 7, 2016 – Listen to him, look to him

Transfiguration Ps 99, Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:3-18, Luke 9:28-36 ***************************************************************** High on the mountain… We glimpse the glory of God in the face of Jesus transfigured, his clothes dazzling white. Moses and Elijah of old, also in glory, representing the law and prophets of Israel, conferring with Jesus… Then vanishing in the cloud… Peter wants to translate this revelation into something safer, more suitable for habitation… But the voice of God comes from the cloud, silencing him… And he and James and John say nothing of this experience till much later… And as the glory recedes into cloud and memory… and we head back down the mountain… I’ve been thinking of mountain top experiences… And prompted by last Friday’s snow, and the wondrous sight of trees hanging heavy with blazing whiteness… I’ve been remembering…Climbing Mt Jackson in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with my friend John Fitch, both of us then just a few months out of high school. John already a seasoned mountain-climber, who’d climbed all of New Hampshire’s (46) 4000-footers, most of them more than once, was now into climbing them all in winter. He was the guide, I the disciple, following… Our base camp was his aunt and uncle’s place in Northern New Hampshire. John got me out on snowshoes for my first time for a practice run, stepping around in a field, the day before we were to climb. Using ski poles to balance in the deep snow…Getting used to backpacks stuffed with food, water, extra clothing… Next morning we were up by five and out on the road…Snow was falling steadily. We parked at the foot of the mountain, and began climbing before full daylight. It was near the winter solstice; days were short. John knew how long the climb should take. He kept his eyes on his watch all day, to be sure we’d be back down before dark. But I don’t remember thinking at all about time – or much of anything except the startling brightness – far as we could see – everything covered in clear, bright, brilliance…. Soft powder snow kept falling, silently, through the day – calm, incredibly graceful… Strangely beautiful… We climbed in steady, step-step, step-step rhythm going up… Speaking only a little to save energy… Making only quick stops to eat… Snow continued falling…Winds blowing snow from trees in bright flurries. We could see only a few hundred feet. No long views for us from the summit when we got there. No voice spoke from out of the cloud… But we were caught up in clouds of almost frighteningly bright snow… Making me now think of disciples of old gazing at the dazzling brightness of Jesus… I was agnostic at the time. Even so, I had a glimpse of the glory of God, I believe… in the beauty of God’s handiwork on the mountain… I didn’t know a thing about prayer in those days – yet I was in a deep meditative rhythm, resembling, in retrospect, slow silent prayer…I believe I was sensing somehow the presence of God… Though I didn’t yet know there was a God… (We don’t need to know God… for God to be present, of course…) And we were touched by the presence of the Holy… Though I didn’t know yet how to...

read more