Father Philip Sang: Transfiguration Time

Sermon delivered on Transfiguration Sunday A, February 23, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Sang has turned over a new leaf in preparation for Lent. He has actually produced a manuscript for his sermon, which you can read below. To listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 24.12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1.16-21; St. Matthew 17.1-9.

May the words of my mouth and meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you oh Lord our rock and our redeemer, in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen

A teacher in a Sunday school class was reading the story of the Transfiguration. As she read, she noticed one little boy seemed confused.

When she was finished she asked him, “Johnny, why don’t you tell us where Jesus was in this story. He replied, “Oh, he was on a mountain.”

“Yes, that’s right; said the teacher, “Do you remember why he was up there?” Johnny answered with a confused look, “I guess that’s where his arithmetic class was held .”

” The teacher looked at him and wondered what he meant. “What do you mean, arithmetic class?” “Well” Johnny replied, “The Bible said, ’Jesus went up on the mountain and there he BEGAN TO FIGURE ” ’ The teacher smiled and said,”The scripture said, He went into the mountain and there He BECAME TRANSFIGURED NOT BEGAN TO FIGURE. “

It is Transfiguration Time.

Jesus walked with his disciples as he taught them. He explained over and over what was to happen to him and what they would need to do. They witnessed his miracles: the healings, the feedings, his words of grace and love to the sinners and to the broken.

It sounds pretty straight forward, right? I think we imagine we would be smarter or pay better attention or just listen more carefully than the disciples if Jesus were speaking with us.

If we were those disciples, we’d surely understand about him asking us to leave our families and our lives to follow him…as Father Santosh preached a couple of weeks ago, that doesn’t seem too hard to understand.

So, let’s make believe, just for a moment or two, that we are one of those disciples in today’s gospel story. I’d like you to try, if you can, to actually picture yourself with Jesus that day. Walking up the side of the high mountain, listening to him as you always did. Picture this in your mind. Close your eyes if you need to. You and Jesus, walking up the mountain, listening to him talk about God’s Kingdom and how you will be part of it.

How do you feel? Are you confident? Excited? Are you scared? Are you thinking of going back down the hill? You are busy talking, listening, tired from the climb and then in Matthews words, “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.”

How would you have experienced this? We can read the words that explain Jesus’ change in appearance but how in the world would you, if you were standing there, understand this? Jesus’ clothing shining dazzling white and Elijah and Moses there with him?

Thinking about this I’ve had more empathy for Peter recently. After trying to place myself directly into this gospel story, I totally understand why he was trying to do something. If you don’t understand something, just start being functional, right? He is scared and he says awkwardly to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Mark’s account adds, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified”.

This, I imagine, was the reality of being a follower of Jesus. Moments of amazement and joy at the miracles and thoughts of a new kingdom where the last would be the first, the meek would inherit the earth and those who were persecuted for the sake of righteousness would claim the kingdom of God; followed closely by intense times of confusion and terror of the unknown. Peter has experienced these two feelings at the same time before and here he is again. Wanting to be helpful, trying to care for the temporal needs of Jesus and much to his amazement Elijah and Moses but knowing somehow that something has changed. Something is different, something important has just happened here and although he doesn’t seem to recognize it, something has also begun to happen to Peter.

There is just no way one could, no way you could, no way I could, be the same after experiencing Transfiguration Time.

Transfiguration is classically defined as: a : a change in form or appearance : METAMORPHOSIS

b : an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change

What I have wondered, what I have pondered and what I have imagined is: Who was actually changed in this experience? Was Jesus different after this encounter with the Holy? Matthew says. ”Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

It appears that after this announcement, after Elijah and Moses left the scene, it is simply Jesus with them again. Did Jesus change or was he always God’s son, God’s beloved?

I would like to suggest that it was in fact the disciples with him that day that began to be transfigured or began their metamorphosis that day.

The time for being confused and terrified had to soon come to an end. As those who would have to carry on the ministry of Jesus to bring this new Kingdom of God to fruition as the Church, it was time to know to whom they were committing their lives, to whom they all belonged and that they now were also the beloved children of God.

There is just no way one could, no way you could, no way I could, be the same after experiencing this, transfiguration time.

Transfiguration Sunday is right before Ash Wednesday and the church’s season of Lent because it marks a final turning point in this metamorphosis of the disciples. In the next weeks they will walk with Jesus on his journey toward Jerusalem and the cross. They will understand the peril they will face, that their own ends will not be any better than Jesus’. They will share in his passion, struggle to understand why they agreed to follow him in the first place, deny knowing him, and then try to be able to comprehend his resurrection and their part in this Good News that would be shared to the four ends of the earth.

Transfiguration Time

a : a change in form or appearance : METAMORPHOSIS

b : an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change It was them who were transfigured that day. A metamorphosis, a spiritual change. There was no going back, no being the same after experiencing this, transfiguration time.

Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:16-18

“…we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the

Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son,

whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from

heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

I wonder though, getting back to us, to you and to me, if you were with Jesus that day, saw him with his clothes shining brighter than anyone could bleach them, standing with Elijah and Moses. What would you have done?

In what way would you begin to be transfigured, to begin a metamorphosis, to start to be spiritually changed? In what way have you already traveled with Jesus and changed so much that there is no turning back, no being the same after experiencing this?

Do you have an idea of how you might travel with Jesus during this season of Lent and to share in his Passion, to understand the highs and the lows of being a follower of Jesus today?

This is the heart of the matter: Each of our lives is different. Not all are called to serve God in the same way BUT all who have seen the bright light of the North Star or the shining garments of God’s beloved, all who experience transfiguration time, are in fact called to follow that light and in fact to BECOME that light for others. I’d like to leave you with that thought today.

Over these next weeks of Lent moving toward Holy Week and Easter, how will you personally reflect this Epiphany light in your world?

Start today, start where you can and remember… there will be no turning back, no being the same after experiencing this transfiguration time.

In the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen

February 22, 2020: Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Today is George Washington’s birthday. He would be 288 years old! To our great detriment, Americans are forgetting about our first president. This is sad, in part, because without him, there would not likely be the USA that we know today. Do yourself a favor and learn about this extraordinary man with whom God blessed this country.

To the world’s amazement, Washington had prevailed over the more numerous, better supplied, and fully trained British army, mainly because he was more flexible than his opponents. He learned that it was more important to keep his army intact and to win an occasional victory to rally public support than it was to hold American cities or defeat the British army in an open field. Over the last 200 years revolutionary leaders in every part of the world have employed this insight, but never with a result as startling as Washington’s victory over the British.

On December 23, 1783, Washington presented himself before Congress in Annapolis, Maryland, and resigned his commission. Like Cincinnatus, the hero of Classical antiquity whose conduct he most admired, Washington had the wisdom to give up power when he could have been easily become dictator. He left Annapolis and went home to Mount Vernon with the fixed intention of never again serving in public life. This one act, without precedent in modern history, made him an international hero.

In the years after the Revolutionary War, Washington devoted most of his time to rebuilding Mount Vernon, which had suffered in his absence. He experimented with new crops and fertilizers and bred some of the finest mules in the nation. He also served as president of the Potomac Company, which worked to improve the navigation of the river in order to make it easier for upstream farmers to get their produce to market.

Read it all or pick up this book and really get to know the Father of our Country.

Presidents’ Day 2020: George Washington’s Birthday

Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on February 22nd until well into the 20th Century. However, in 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”

One of the provisions of this act changed the observance of Washington’s Birthday from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. Ironically, this guaranteed that the holiday would never be celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21.

Read it all.

Presidents’ Day 2020: Notable and Quotable (5)

I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. God bless the women of America!

—Abraham Lincoln, Quotations of Abraham Lincoln

Presidents’ Day 2020: Notable and Quotable (2)

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

—Abraham Lincoln, Quotations of Abraham Lincoln