Rev. Molly F. James, PhD
Feast of the Transfiguration
7 February 2016
Grace Episcopal Church
Exodus 34:29-35;Psalm 99 ; 2 Corinthians 3:12--4:2; Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]
May God’s Word be spoken. May God’s Word be heard. May that point us to the Living Word who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our son Halsted will turn two on April 1st. He is it that wonderful stage where you can still see the infant he was a few short months ago, and yet there is a personality emerging of a smart, empathetic, generous boy with quite a sense of humor. He wants to hug his friends or his sister when they are upset. And he has also been known to go running off to the far corners of the house giggling all the way if it is time to put on his coat and shoes to go out the door.
As a mom, I find myself already missing the days when he fit snuggly in a wrap on my chest. When mostly he was content to just sleep or watch the world go by. Even now, I want to hold on to these days, where the solution to any problem is a hug. While I know that much greater challenges, and I hope tremendous joys too, lie ahead of us, it is so tempting to want to figure out how to push the pause button and keep things as they are. Tempting to stay in that magical world where our children think we are the source of all that is good in the world, and where they do not yet know the challenging realities of living in a fallen world.
As you might be guessing, I find myself most readily identifying with Peter in this morning’s Gospel passage. “It is good for us to be here.” How can we stay here? How can we hold onto this moment that feels so perfect -- that feels to be the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams? How can we just press pause and seemingly ignore all the challenges that lie ahead of us?
I am sure we can all relate to Peter. We can look back with nostalgia on some particularly joyful moment of our lives or think of some moment of great revelation, some moment when we felt so marvelously close to God, some moment when we felt we could believe in our bones those oft quoted words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well. All will be well. And all manner of things shall be well.” Hopefully for each of us there are numerous moments in our lives when we wish we had a pause button, where we could just stay a little longer. Where we wish for a longer conversation with a loved one, for one more day of vacation, for our children or our own bodies to be young again.
It is so tempting to want to hold on to the present or to look back with nostalgia to another time. Particularly in this morning’s passage, we can see why Peter wants to do that. We can even imagine why Jesus would want to do that. When Jesus goes down from the mountain, he sets his face toward Jerusalem. He knows what lies ahead of him. More work. More people who do not believe him. Then a triumphal entry into the holy city, followed by a gruesome death on the Cross. Yup, I think we can all relate to the desire to avoid something we know is going to be difficult.
It is so tempting to wish for that mystical pause button and to get stuck in our nostalgia and to get stuck in the pessimistic place of focusing on what we wish was different. But I think there is a more profound insight and invitation in today’s text. What if we step back? What if we look at this story with a wider lens? What if we see in it the ebb and flow of life, the profound reality that life is not, and never can be static?
If we shift our lens a bit, this story can be an invitation to be profoundly present in the moment and to be comforted by the fact that things will not stay as they are. Notice that Jesus, and even the disciples as well, are fully present in this marvelous moment of revelation on the mountain top. Of course, Peter is so present, he loses sight of anything else. But note that they do not get distracted by where they have been. There is no discussion of past healings or work, no conversation of what is on their To Do List for tomorrow or the next day. The disciples wake up and pay attention. They are fully present, as is Jesus to God’s revelation and the beauty of the moment.
So, there is our first invitation. Knowing that life is not static, that we will not be in this moment forever, knowing that we cannot press pause, let us take that as an invitation to show up and to be fully present to what is happening in our lives. This is easy to do when things are going well -- when there is something particularly happy or joyful going on. Although if we allow ourselves to become too distracted by our calendars, by our To Do lists or even by the news headlines, we might not be as fully present for the relationships that are providing us blessings in the here and now. Our lives are full of blessings -- as long as our eyes and hearts are open to receive them.
And then there is the comfort in knowing life won’t always be like it is now. This truth matters much more when we are struggling. Whatever challenge we might be facing, whether it be the personal challenges of illness, broken relationships or an unwelcome change, or the broader challenges of being a community in transition or a Christian in an increasingly secular society. There is great comfort to be found in knowing that whatever is hard, frustrating or painful about today will not be true forever. The present reality is not permanent. Things will change. And even though it may seem impossible for us to imagine, they will change for the better.
We can stand with Julian of Norwich and hold on to her truth. All will be well. It may not be well right now, and it may not be all well by next week, but it will be well. We know this because we are a people of faith, a people of God. We are followers of Jesus, and we have at the center of our faith the story that God is at work bringing new life, even in the midst of the most challenging and darkest circumstances.
We have faith in the future because we have faith in God, because we have faith in each other and because we do not journey alone. We have each other as companions on the way, shoulders to cry on and as strength and inspiration when we find ourselves floundering or doubting.
So, as tempting as it is to want to push the pause button when all is well, we can ultimately take comfort in the knowledge that change is a constant in our lives. I give thanks to Halsted for his joyful exuberance and curiosity, for his love of learning and desire to see what is next. They are a reminder that God calls us to live into a future that is more wonderful than we can ask or imagine.
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