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The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord August 6, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, August 6, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
The disciples were having trouble
hearing Jesus.
Earlier in this chapter of Luke’s gospel
Jesus had plainly told them    
          what he knew would happen:
“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering,
and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes,
and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”               [Luke 9.22]
And, he added,
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves
and take up their cross daily
          and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”  [Luke 9.23-24]
Maybe the disciples didn’t want to hear it.

About eight days after those sayings,
Jesus took Peter, John and James
and went up a mountain to pray.
As he stood
talking with Moses and Elijah
about what would happen to him
          in Jerusalem,
the glory of his divinity
shone with blinding intensity
          through the cloak of his humanity.
And then the voice from the cloud,
““This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
Glory / Jerusalem . . . his mission / his crucifixion.
Listen to him.
A revelation,
          of who Jesus really was,
and the inherent connection                                          
          of his glory to his suffering.

Immediately following the transfiguration, 
as Jesus and the three disciples
came down from the mountain,      
          they were met by a great crowd,                          [Luke 9:37-45]
          and a man whose son
                   had been seized by a demon.
          “It convulses him until he foams at the mouth,”
          said the desperate father,
          “it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.”
While the astonished crowd
          looked on in awe,
                   Jesus healed the boy,
then, turning to his disciples,
repeated the prediction of his destiny:
“Let these words sink into your ears,” he said.
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed
into human hands.”
Let these words sink into your ears
Listen to him.

After the experience of the transfiguration:
          the appearance of Moses and Elijah,
                   those great figures of Israel’s ancient story;
          the blinding vision of Jesus radiant with God’s glory;
          the enveloping cloud, the commanding voice . . .
. . . that astonishing mountaintop encounter
          with the Holy
was followed by descent into the trenches,
into the mire of the world’s pain,
          confrontation with evil,
          in this instance
                    an unclean spirit
                             tearing a boy apart.
The cost of following Jesus
would be more about
life in the trenches
than exaltation on a mountaintop.
A religious experience
like that of Peter, John and James
is both touchstone and temptation.
When doubts emerge,
despair threatens,
when the bubble of elation bursts,
as it always will,
the memory of that experience is
a touchstone for faith.

As it was for Peter.
When Jesus was arrested in Jerusalem
          Peter, afraid, denied even knowing him.
But after the resurrection,
          as he began to understand
          what Jesus had been saying all along . . .
he could write with courage and confidence
          of having been an “eyewitness of his majesty . . .
          while we were with him on the holy mountain.”
“You will do well to be attentive to this,”
          he told his readers,
          “as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
          until the day dawns and the morning star
                   rises in your hearts.”
A vision, a voice, an indelible memory:
a lamp shining in the darkness.
Such a memory can also be a temptation:
woe to the one who turns back
longing to re-capture the spiritual high,
and in trying to re-create it,
is diverted from the real meaning
of discipleship:
Life in the trenches.

“Will you persevere in resisting the evil powers of this world,
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?”
asks the baptismal covenant.
“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship
in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?”
“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons . . .
strive for justice and peace . . .
respect the dignity of every human being . . .
do everything in your power to protect
          the wonderful works of God in Creation?”
Discipleship is the duty and discipline
of listening to Jesus Christ
          in the ordinariness of our lives,
seeking truly to live in the pattern of his living,
a pattern of service and self-offering,
          not counting the cost,
                    whatever it may be.
Our Sunday worship
is a kind of mountaintop for us –
we gather apart from the world
(although bearing with us
our own and the world’s
          hurts and hopes and needs).

Here on this mountaintop
Jesus is revealed again
as God’s Son, God’s Chosen,
in the Word proclaimed,
in the Bread broken and the Wine poured out,
in the worshipping Body we become,
his Risen Body,
knit together by Word and Sacrament –
But let’s be realistic:
Sunday is not usually
a mountaintop experience.
The purpose of our liturgy
is not to seek or generate
or experience such exalted moments.
there may be an epiphany,
little or large, 
it may be just another ordinary Sunday –
we stand, sit, kneel;
sing, pray, proclaim;
eat, drink, give thanks,
And then we leave . . .
perhaps stopping in at coffee hour
to continue the connection
          our worship has once again created.

It is our ordinary Sunday being-with-Jesus-the-Christ,
part of the daily-ness and discipline
of listening to God’s Son, God’s Chosen,
          and being shaped by his Word.
It is good to be here,
it is important to be here . . .
and even better and more important,
it is good
to take what is given here
down the mountain
into the low places of hurt and pain and need
in the world.
The dismissal
sends us out to go about this work
in Jesus’ name,
where the ordinary daily-ness
of following him goes on
in sickness and in health,
in poverty and in wealth,
in weakness and in strength,
in fear and in courage,
in sorrow and in joy,
in failure and in success,
in disappointment and in hope,
in war and in peace,
in oppression and in freedom.

It is the way of the cross,
of death and resurrection,
of daily dying and rising.
It is the life and work of a disciple.
In the collect for this feast,  
(the prayer we prayed
at the beginning of the liturgy)
we asked that we,
“being delivered
from the disquietude of this world,
may by faith behold the King in his beauty . . .”
And perhaps in our worship,
as we step out of place and time
          into the eternal reality of God,
there will be glimpses of Christ’s beauty . . .
in this awesome gathering place,  
in God’s word spoken among us,
in the prayers we pray,
the music,
the Holy meal we share,
in one another’s faces . . .

But much as we might like to be delivered
from “the disquietude of this world”
the purpose of the liturgy
is to deliver us
into the disquietude of this world,
          into the trenches,
          into the mire of the world’s pain,
          strengthened for service
          by this weekly discipline
          of continuance
                   “in the apostles teaching and fellowship,
                   in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.”
For it is in the disquietude of this world
that we encounter
the paradoxical beauty of the King
in the yearning faces of
those uncertain of God’s love for them,
those suffering
          the injustices and cruelties of our time
                   which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God,
those in any kind of trouble . . .
and all who work to alleviate their suffering.
If we would seek
the beauty of the King,
“[We] will do well to be attentive to these
          as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
          until the day dawns and the morning star
                   rises in our hearts.”
May these words sink into our ears.