A Sermon from the 1st Congregational Church, UCC, North Yarmouth, Maine
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the 1st Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, North Yarmouth, Maine on February 7, 2016.
Scripture Luke 9:28-43a
In today’s gospel reading, just as Moses saw God’s Glory on the mountain and reflected it when he came down with the ten commandments, Peter, James and John go up a mountain and see God’s Glory in Jesus. We are told that his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white – in Matthew’s gospel, the writer says his face shone like the sun. This is called the transfiguration . Jesus the human changed to visibly reveal that he was God. How did he change? We don’t know any more than what we read. He changed. Scholars say that this is the foreshadowing of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We can make allusions as followers of Christ to the transformation or rebirth of our lives so that they reflect God in all that we do. In the presence of God’s glory, Peter seems to be at a loss and needing to ‘do’ something he suggests building shelters for Jesus , Moses and Elijah. Many have preached how we can miss seeing God’s glory all around us because we are too busy ‘doing’ and not soaking in God’s presence.
Peter John and James have had this wondrous mountaintop experience of epic proportions – visibly seeing God’s glory revealed in Jesus the Christ and what do they do with it? We are told they are silent. Why? Did they think people might think they were out of their minds? Maybe. They were silent. They told no one. They did not reveal how they had experienced God’s glory on the mountaintop. And they came down the mountain. What does this mean for us today? Can you recount mountaintop experiences that you have had?
I have two master’s degrees; one in business and one in divinity. I participated in both graduations. With the first came a sense of accomplishment. With the second came an indescribable jubilation – it was one of the most joyful occasions of my life. Another mountaintop experience would be the birth of a child – unbelievable wonder and joy. Falling in love – love’s first blush – when you meet your soul mate and it quite literally changes your life – that is a mountaintop experience. Going on a retreat – getting away – no chores, none of the daily tasks, taking time to be fully in God’s presence can be a mountaintop experience. It is a time when you can have amazing God moments. Or you go to a conference for your work or for church – you are inspired and come back bursting with fresh new ideas and inspiration – a mountaintop experience .
In November 2012 I went to Haiti on a mission trip. We prepared anticipating how we would help – perhaps even change lives. We collected clothes and shoes, we prepared vacation bible school materials, we got all our shots, we planned our trip, we packed and repacked. We were very excited not sure exactly what to expect, anticipation was high. When we got there, we helped prepare for medical clinic trips to outlying communities, we bagged up vitamins, we prepared to clean out ears and give out what medications we had. We were ready. We were on the mountaintop ready to minister in Christ’s name. It was amazing.
These are all mountaintop experiences and they are amazing and remarkable. And then something happens… we come down from the mountain.
The joy and jubilation of receiving my masters in divinity faded as I completed the ‘in care’ process of my denomination and went through the process of searching for a call. After the miracle of birth comes diapers, midnight feedings, crying and sleep deprivation. Falling in love is beautiful but then as you build a life together the laundry must be done and the bills paid. Taking time away from the world for God time is blessedly renewing and then the daily tasks and deadlines are still there when you return. New ideas inspired by a conference are met with obstacles and a myriad of reasons why it can’t be that way here in the real world. In Haiti, preparation for the medical clinics felt wonderful and rewarding and then as we faced the huge need in the faces of parents and children, we wondered if anything we were doing made any difference.
How is it that we have these mountaintop experiences and then feel as if it has slipped away somehow? Even though the euphoric joy of the moment may be gone, have we lost what we gained? No. God is certainly on the mountaintop with us AND God is with us when we come down from the mountaintop. We made a difference in the lives of the people we met in Haiti. They left knowing that we cared and that God loves them and that they are children of God. They knew that because even in the heat of the day when we ran out of baggies of fish oil pills and vitamins, with compassion we listened to their stories and applied ointments and cleaned out ears and we prayed with them. We reached out in God’s love and in the process I believe we reflected God’s glory.
Even when we come down from the mountaintop, God is with us. God continued to show me the path chosen for my ministry. God blesses parents with so many amazing moments as children grow. Couples fall in love over and over again as time goes by. Retreats and times alone with God are constantly available to us for 5 minutes per day or for a weekend. New ideas from conferences are seeds planted and will bear fruit when the time is right.
The important thing is that we have these mountaintop experiences to empower us and strengthen us, and encourage us so that when we come down from the mountain we can do God’s work.
God continues to be with us every day. And as Christ’s disciples, followers, we can bring God to our world every day. We will always reflect God’s presence, God’s glory in our acts of compassion and love to the least. Jesus came down from the mountain to the people, to where the need was, to bring healing, to bring compassion and love. And we are told that with faith we can do the same in the name of Christ. How else will the world know of God’s glory if not through the ministries of all who love God and minister as Christ to this world?
Will you be shining examples of God’s love and compassion, God’s glory? Go and share God’s glory with those in need – the world needs mountaintop experiences – in Christ’s name, we can make that happen. Go. Minister in Christ’s name – reflect God’s glory to our world. Amen.