Sermon – February 15, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Mark 9:2-4
Please be seated.
The church I grew up in had changed radically by the early 60s. It was in a city, whose neighborhoods were changing, really disappearing from around the church. The church was right downtown, close to the state capitol and office buildings for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The many neighborhoods, especially the predominantly African-American neighborhoods that had once been there, were being swallowed up by the needs of state government and urban renewal plans. There was not much neighborhood around the church by the early 1960s.
But the church called a new pastor in 1963 and he challenged those there to revitalize the church. My father heard this Pastor on the radio one Sunday and soon after, started attending. By 1966, my mother converted from Roman Catholicism and we all started attending.
As I neared Junior High School a couple of years later – 7th Grade – I became very excited, because I’d be able to participate in the church youth group activities. The church had called an Assistant Pastor and he focused on youth and young married couples. There were a number of other adults who also assisted with the youth group and they seemed fun to be around.
So I was glad when it came time for me to join this group of 7th – 12th graders. Now for the first 3 years, I attended confirmation classes prior to the youth group meetings. Our Youth Group addressed many of the issues of the day such as the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty and Civil Rights. We formed a singing group which performed songs with many of the themes of our time interspersed with written words and poems… songs like Blowin’ in the Wind or If I Had a Hammer.
We explored our faith and how it led us to take action. We explored our belief in God. Those were the days when Time Magazine had a cover story, Is God Dead? There was a lot of questioning about belief in God and the place of the church. I had gone to church as long as I could remember. I wanted to believe in God. I loved the story of Jesus Christ. But I didn’t feel my belief deep in my soul and heart.
My best friend at the time and I would often go into the sanctuary in the evenings when it was dark, except for the Sanctuary light, which burned to let us know God was in this place. We’d talk and share the deepest concerns of our 12-year old lives, including how we understood God. We’d talk to God there.
Our youth group also went on retreats about twice a year. Weekends away where we’d have fun and deepen our faith. In the fall of my 8th grade year, we went to a retreat house just outside a small Pennsylvania town. On Sunday morning, we had our church service, which was very free-form. I remember the day was cold and late fall and very sunny. We started saying The Lord’s Prayer and I started crying…tears streaming down my face. Because I knew…I finally knew that God was real…that God was with me and in me. I knew it deep in my soul. I had experienced transfiguration.
In today’s Gospel Reading, we hear about Jesus’ transfiguration or being changed into something beautiful. Jesus and the Disciples had left the region around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up Mt. Tabor.
Mt. Tabor rises almost 1900 feet out of the Jezreel Valley. It’s a steep climb up to the top. It’s understandable that not everyone made the climb. But what happened on that mountain was crucial for the Disciples. It was an experience both powerful and scary. So powerful that Peter wanted to make monuments there. And many paintings depict the disciples falling down part of the mountain in fear. I mean, what would you do if you saw Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus and then heard a voice from heaven confirming that Jesus was beloved and should be listened to?
But, you see, God knew what was coming when those disciples walked down that mountain. They were setting off to Jerusalem and to another mount – Calvary. God knew that the disciples would be very confused by the way salvation was going to come to them. They were expecting a restoration of the Davidic Kingdom and being freed from the Romans. But that wasn’t going to be how things worked out. God knew it would be a hard road for all of them. So, God gave them this powerful and awe-inspiring and unforgettable moment…a moment to hang on to when life got confusing and challenging.
What are those moments for you? What are those times when you’ve felt peace or joy, especially in the community of God? Or those times when amazing “coincidences” happened? Those times when you are filled with awe? Those times when you experience a power beyond yourself? I hope you’ve had them. God gives them to us to hang on to when life is difficult and hard.
I’ve forgotten plenty of things in my life, but I’ve never forgotten that moment when I was 13, on that retreat, saying The Lord’s Prayer. I can picture it just as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Yes, since then, I’ve had tough and challenging times in my life…times when I didn’t feel so close to God, but that experience at 13 has kept me close to God at the same time…sometimes just by a thread, but nonetheless unshakeable in my belief in God.
Hold on…hold on to those moments of transfiguration – powerful and awe-inspiring. They comfort you on the journeys through the valleys of difficult and challenging times.