2 Peter 1:16-21
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace to you and peace
from the God of what was, what is and what can be. Amen
I’m going to use a word in this sermon
that many in church consider a bad word,
a scary word, a word to be avoided.
I warning you in advance
because I don’t want you to be so shocked
that you don’t hear the rest of what I say this morning.
The word is change.
Deep breath, it’s going to be okay
The story of the transfiguration
is a story about the necessity and difficulty of change
and the moments of clarity
that often mark the transition
between what was and what is to come.
The transfiguration comes
at a point of transition in Matthew’s gospel,
the point between Jesus’ ministry with the disciples
and his journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
Leading up to the transfiguration
Jesus asks the disciples
“who do you say that I am”
to this Peter blurts out
“you are the messiah the son of the living God”
proclaiming for the first time
Jesus’ true identity.
Jesus then predicts his death
and Peter who only sentences ago got the right answer
takes Jesus aside and tries to exorcise him
because clearly he is possessed
Jesus rebukes him,
this is the famous “get behind me satan,”
then teaches the disciples about the cost of discipleship.
“If any want to by my followers,
let them deny themselves,
take up their cross and follow me.”
then Jesus takes Peter, James and John
up the mountain.
Jesus is shown in the radiance of God
Moses and Elijah appear for a chat,
and Peter the rock, says
‘this is amazing, let’s stay here forever’
Can you blame him?
Peter is at that point
where he knows change is inevitable
he sees in front of him a glimpse of Jesus’ future glory
and he knows that even if he doesn’t want to believe it
what Jesus said about being crucified is true
and yet he wants to hold on to what was for a little longer.
“I’ll build some shacks,
we can stay here,
the future doesn’t have to happen”
while he’s still speaking
they are overshadowed by the presence of God
and God repeats the words said at Jesus’ baptism,
“This is my son the beloved; with him I am well pleased;”
and then God adds one more phrase
“listen to him”
the disciples fall to the ground overcome by fear.
An appropriate response to hearing the voice of God
but also I think out of fear of the change that has just been confirmed.
And Jesus reaches over,
touches them and says
“get up and do not be afraid”
and they get up
and go down the mountain,
into the future.
And while they go
Jesus cautions them to tell no one about what they’d seen
until after he’s been raised from the dead.
This might seem an odd request
but in making it
Jesus gives Peter and James and John a clue
for how to understand their experience.
It will only fully make sense after the resurrection
and it’s a memory that they will need
as their ministry progresses,
as they take up their own crosses.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own life,
maybe not as dramatically as a voice from heaven
but you’ve had a moment
where something is revealed to you
and you don’t fully understand it until later
looking back on how life turned out after that event.
Maybe this happened in a relationship
or during a loved one’s last days.
In my own life I think about when I was discerning my call to ministry,
this started when I was in high school
and so an already difficult thing
was made even more complicated by hormones and teenage insecurity,
at the end of senior year
I was at the point where I pretty much knew that it was inevitable
but I was still holding out,
resisting giving into that change of perspective in my life.
And then my mentor and pastor, Susan
had her 25th anniversary of ordination,
she’d been ordained as a young woman in 1980,
which was only ten years after the first women were ordained.
there was a big celebration
including a jello-salad potluck
and a service where many of her peers participated,
a whole chancel full of women pastors, right in front of me.
It took a little longer for me to accept that I was going to be a pastor
but looking back,
that service was a turning point in my discernment,
it was as if God were parading my future in front of me,
a future that was not always going to be easy
but one where there would be moments of great joy,
it was a parade of foremothers,
a not so gentle nudge
as if God was saying
“see dummy if they can do it so can you and actually you’ll have an easier time of it because of them.”
Moments of transition are terrifying,
because they confirm what we already suspect and are resisting.
And in those moments,
Jesus comes, touches us on the shoulder and says
“get up, and do not be afraid”
then walks with us into our changed lives.
Often, in the moment
we don’t fully understand what is going on
but Jesus gives us a clue,
says ‘hold onto this,
you’re going to need it later’
As a congregation we are on a threshold,
we know that how communities and people “do church” is changing
and we’re resisting the inevitable change
because it is terrifying to us.
It’s too soon to tell what our transfiguration moment will be
but I hope that our new mission statement
will help carry us through this time.
Our statement is:
Saved by God’s Grace.
Rooted in Christ.
Nurtured in Faith.
Serving Christ and Community.
It is simple enough to remember,
yet this simple statement does several things,
it proclaims who we are,
the committee that wrote the statement
used all the information gathered during the vision process
and we think it’s an accurate description of our community.
At the same time
is it also gives us a path to follow into the future,
what is important to us
and how we intend to live that out.
It is important to us
that we are gathered together
by the grace of God in Christ Jesus
in whom we are rooted.
Everything we do is because of the grace of God through Christ,
this is the rock we cling to
as other things change around us,
this will not change
worship and the sacraments serve to nourish our faith,
which we seek to nurture and grow
through deepening our relationships
with God and others,
and this can happen in a variety of ways,
through prayer and Bible study,
through getting to know someone on a deeper level
and when we do
these relationships lead us into lives of service,
out of thanksgiving and love for Christ and our neighbors near and far.
Jesus knows that the path of discipleship is not always easy,
so when we are paralyzed by fear,
Jesus comforts us saying,
get up and do not be afraid.
And walks down the mountain with us
into the future
wherever it may lead. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.