Sunday, 6 August 2006

SERMON: Sat/Sun August 5&6, 2006

This is very nearly my last Sunday in Brookline. Their worship schedule included a Celtic service on Saturdays at 5 pm (which I really enjoyed) as well as two services on Sunday morning. In the sweltering heat of Boston during July and August, I also enjoyed the 8 AM service (even me! not a morning person) because there was the slightest bit of relief from the heat which built up through the day (the Sat 5 PM was actually oppressive sometimes). The building of All Saints always felt open, welcoming and I loved being there even on my own in the early morning (provided the boiler was working in the winter) opening up for the early service.
At All Saints, I developed a bit of a reputation for my "practical" sermons which often included references to the real daily lives of the people. This was different from my colleagues who were more "spiritual" or "social justice-y". As the Director of Religious Ed for Children, Youth, and Families, I felt this was an important part of my job: to be understood by my "constituents".

To see this beautiful church, and active parish go to All Saints, Brookline.

All Saints Parish, Brookline

Saturday / Sunday, August 5/6, 2006

Exodus 34: 29 -35
2 Peter 1 : 13-21
Luke 9:28 – 36 Transfiguration – (would be Pentecost 9B)

Here’s a question for you : Who knows WHY it is Moses and Elijah who are the two talking with Jesus in our Gospel story??

Hmm.. One very helpful hint is to think back to last week’s first lesson: the story from the second book of Kings – the story of Elijah and Elisha. Remember how near the end, Elijah is “ascended into a whirlwind into heaven”? That was the sign that Elisha would be given the double share of his father Elijah’s prophetic spirit.

That’s why Elijah is in our story today : he was whisked up into heaven without really dying.

So what about Moses? I actually thought that Moses had ALSO been taken up into heaven without dying. But to check that out I read through all the books in the Bible that Moses is a part of – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and finally in Deuteronomy Chapter 34, Moses actually dies. BUT before that, as we’ve heard in today’s lesson, when Moses is up on Mount Sinai, the Lord speaks with him. We’re to understand that Moses has seen God face-to-face.

THAT’s why Moses is in our Gospel story with Jesus, and Peter and John and James.

Both of them have had been pretty close to the God.

And in that closeness we know that Moses had a conversation and we can probably assume Elijah did too.

So that’s my take on the Transfiguration this year – that through conversation that we experience the transforming power of God.

Often interpretations or sermons about Transfiguration are about the brilliant blinding light transforming the state of the Jesus’ body. Or much is made about the way that Peter wants to hold on to the amazing situation by building the three dwellings as if to keep the awesome power of the moment for themselves fixed in that place. When I first started to prepare for today, I wanted us to explore the elements of risk in transfiguration and transformation – looking at some of the ways in which each of us faces the risk of change.

But in the last few days, I read a short piece by a priest named Sam Portaro that talked about the Transfiguration. He suggested the idea of a conversation that must have happened between Jesus and Moses and Elijah. In his writing, he suggests that both of these historic figures – men who’s life’s story Jesus would have known and studied – had a conversation with Jesus about the future of his life. Their conversation would have been inspired directly by God since they’d seen God face-to-face and brought God’s word to Jesus.

For Portaro, it is the weight and import of that conversation that leaves Jesus not only changed, and glowing in dazzling white. It gives Jesus a new understanding of what is to come in his ministry and a changed way into which he leads the next short while. Therefore, the Transfiguration is not about the physical or exterior transformation that Jesus makes (although there is manifestation of that change) but the Transfiguration is about what has changed – what has been transformed INSIDE of Jesus.

Pretty cool.
Pretty cool that a conversation could have the power to make someone LOOK physically different on the outside.
Can you imagine that ?
Do you think that could actually happen ?

Well, if you watch any of television’s makeover shows you know that it can happen. Sort of at least! It happens in reverse – that when women (predominantly) -- through clothes, hair and makeup restyling – begin to look better on the outside, they think better of and believe more in themselves on the inside.

The MORE powerful thing about our Gospel is that it’s not anything that is done, but what is said that makes the change to the inner world! And then it’s seen by those in the outer world.

I don’t think that’s quite been created by reality TV yet!!

But, seriously, how can we enter this Biblical text with it’s example of the transformation of conversation?

I honestly think that a direct word from God is exactly what many of us desire in our hearts…

Don’t we yearn to be “told” by God what to do?
To “hear” clearly what choice or choices God would want us to make?

I’m talking about the really deep questions :: It might be about question about love; or in making a choice in career or retirement; about whether or not to make a move; maybe about the best way to approach someone before or after a conflict.

When faced with a difficult situation or decision, I know I’d surely be happy if two women from my past sat down with me and said “Stefani, here is exactly what God wants you to do.”

Ordained people usually speak, from the pulpit, about being “called” to this or to that. That’s pretty much a direct back-and-forth dialogue with God.

Here at All Saints we’re almost professional with our discernment committees for people exploring that call from God.

That’s all fine. I’m talking about something a little different. I’m talking about serious questions but definitely not limited to work “with” God or the church. I mean the more ordinary things that we WOULD talk about with a friend or two.

Could we make those conversations feel like we were talking with people who had seen the face of God?

You know I think we could! I definitely think we can!! Each one of us can …

I know there’s been some discussion around the parish about perhaps setting up short term discernment committees – discernment specifically NOT for ordination purposes. I’ll even single out someone whom I know has some of this ministry both in her heart and with practical ability to say I really hope it comes to fruition soon here!!

So, as my very last practical “advice” at the end of a sermon, here’s what I suggest YOU might want to do:

First, Trust that it could happen

Select people
Think about one or two you believe has a deep spiritual life or moving toward that kind of maturity. Look for someone around you who maybe has had at least a glimpse of God.
Maybe someone who has the LIGHT around them …

This is probably not a priest! Maybe a person who is deeply committed to a run once day because she sees it as her prayer time or a person who has a compassion for others that very few people sees.

In Celtic terms this person or persons would be your Anam Cara or Soul Friend. I want you to take a moment and think about which person could be in a God-conversation with you … In my mind I keep thinking of the books Tuesdays with Morrie or the Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven. VERY ordinary people being able to do this extra-ordinary thing of helping have a conversation with God.

Ask to spend time together and share your question or concern

Remember –God will be present and listen for the Spirit to prompt questions in your hearts rather than words. But do talk – allow the power of the conversation itself be transformative ...

Imagine what could happen

Then, expect to be Transformed! Watch out for your own Transfiguration!!

There may be amazing consequences … and remember, that just like Jesus experienced, even in the deepest and darkest moments, God is there with you.