“Stay With Me – Sermon 4”
Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Sermon delivered by Pastor Daniel Mejia
St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church
February 15, 2015
Can I be honest with you for a moment. I didn’t want to leave Orlando.
Michelle and I enjoyed our vacation so much that we wanted to stay longer. Sure, if we were doing it all over again, I don’t know that we will go, back to back, to Disney World and then Universal studios. Don’t get me wrong. I could live my entire life drinking on a daily basis, in all its shapes and forms, Butter Beer from the Harry Potter world; or visiting the Star Wars section in Disney. Or spending time with the minions. And that doesn’t even include the Disney and Universal Studios hotels where every day someone came to clean my room and make my bed. It can’t get any better than that.
Please understand, I love my family, I love you but Michelle and I had such a wonderful time that I didn’t want to come back.
I know I’m not the only one. I know you know exactly what I’m talking about, and maybe it didn’t have anything to do with going away on vacation, but it was a moment that you didn’t want to end or leave. Or maybe it was a moment like the one we read this morning where the disciples find themselves having a once in a lifetime experience with Jesus, as the Holy Spirit comes upon him during the transfiguration. Transfiguration, literally meaning a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. Here’s Jesus, the holy one, the miracle worker, now seen in an even more beautiful and spiritual state.
Moses and Elijah show up, representing the Law and the prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures and confirming for Jesus that he too would continue on this road of suffering, death and resurrection. This is a holy moment like none other with the light of Christ surrounding them and of course Peter, James and John want to stay in that moment. How can it get any better than this? What else could we want? We’ve got Jesus, shining bright like a diamond, and we are hanging out with the Epic Moses and Elijah! Indeed the light that came upon Jesus’ face gave these three disciples a new perspective on who Jesus was, opening their eyes into a new reality of what following Christ would look like for them and for us.
And so it would make sense that the disciples didn’t want to leave this holy moment just like Michelle and I didn’t want to leave our beautiful vacation. It makes sense for them and for us to want to stay in the midst of that glory forever. Why would we want to go back to the huffing and puffing of life? Why would we want to go back on a journey with Jesus where we don’t know what we will encounter? A journey that will demand from us hard work, to go to towns where we will not be welcomed, to visit people of questionable reputation, to be chastised by Jesus when we step out of line? Why would we want to go back to that when we can enjoy forever the peace, the quiet, the warmth, and the assurance of God’s light surrounding us?
It makes sense that the disciples would want to stay at the top of the mountain forever, particularly at this moment in their lives. The disciples had been shattered by Jesus’ talk about going to Jerusalem and dying on the cross. That crazy talk from Jesus contradicted completely what a political and religious leader should do or be in the eyes of the disciples. What they witnessed on the mountain of the transfiguration was a glimpse of who Jesus the Son of God is in all his power and glory. And that gave them unspeakable hope and joy. But here’s the thing, by witnessing this moment, the disciples became special witnesses of the glory of Christ and that meant something more, something special. A witness has been defined as a man or woman who first sees and then shows. Their time in the mountain had shown them the glory of Christ, and now they had the story of this glory hidden in their hearts ready to shared with the world. (Barclay)
Here’s what I know this morning… the glory of Christ is already woven into the fabric of your heart and being. You may not know that or understand that, but we believe that the Kingdom of God is already within you, and now, more than ever, is the time for us to share the glory of Christ with the world. (Luke 17:21) In other words, once we’ve seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus, once God places the vision of that reality, that glory in us, we can’t unsee it. We can’t go on with our lives as usual. Once we realize that God’s light has come into our lives we can’t go back to the darkness of selfish pride, apathy, and indifference. Once we’ve seen the light of Christ we too are transfigured and transformed.
As a little boy I used to play a silly game. I would try to pretend that I couldn’t read. So, I would sit in the back of the car and look at the street names, publicity signs, bill boards, and look at them trying not to read them. But I couldn’t. My brain would automatically start reading. It was just a matter of a quick glimpse and I would start reading. I would recognize each letter, then the word, then the sentence; I simply couldn’t stop reading. Because once you learn to read, at least in my case, you can’t unlearn it. Once you see Jesus you can’t unseen him.
Part of our journey as people of faith is the realization that once we’ve seen Jesus’ glory and grace in our lives, something needs to be done with that gift; so that in some way, as it happened to the disciples, we need to come down from the mountain. We need to come off of our wonderful, beautiful mountain where we are comfortable, cozy, pampered, and engage in the brokenness of world. In a week when 3 young Muslims students were shot and killed, allegedly, for a parking dispute; in a week when the news shared with us the painful reality that Kayla Muller a young Christian American humanitarian worker was killed by ISIS; in a world filled with darkness, more than ever, we need to come off the mountain and share the grace and glory of Jesus that we have received.
We need to come down from our mountain because once we have received the light of Christ, we can’t be the same, we can’t unsee that light; we cannot remain the same. Just before she died, Kayla Muller was able to smuggle out a letter with another hostage to her family. After the news of her death was confirmed, Kayla’s family decided to share the short letter with the world. I want to share with you a paragraph from that letter, “I have been shown in darkness, light, and have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness and surrender to God as well and have formed a bond of love and support amongst one another…” Kayla had seen the light of Christ, and that light took her to Syria to help children in need. In her coming down from the mountain of light and grace, Jesus came down with her and sustained her in her own journey to the cross.
I thank God for people like Kayla Muller who can witness Christ’s light of love, grace, and compassion in the midst of tragedy, suffering, and violence. This is the meaning of the transfiguration. It’s easy to reflect the light of Christ to others when we are in places of comfort and ease. But when we find ourselves in the thick of the daily struggles of life, when we encounter people who feel hopeless about the state of the world, when we hear stories of people being hurt and suffering… when we ourselves are even those people.. Are we able to reveal the presence of Christ’s light in the valleys, as well as on the mountaintops?
This week begins the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally Lent offers us the opportunity to commit more deeply to following Jesus through spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is this depth of relationship with Christ that helps us reveal the light of Christ even in the darkness. It is the connection that we have with God that truly brings us to places of transformation and transfiguration like Kayla. In order for us to come down from the mountain and be Christ’s light in the valley, in our town of Bowie, in our nation and world, it is important for us to allow God’s grace more space to rework us. So this year for Lent, I’m going to be bold and invite all of us as a church to commit to these things, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving together.
Today you have a handout in your bulletin describing the journey I’m inviting us to go on together. It is a journey that combines prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. You’re invited to do three things:
- Join me in prayer each morning Monday-Saturday, at 6:30AM over the phone.
- Fast from excess spending, and save $5/day for 40 days, in order to give an extra offering of $200 on Easter that will help contribute to the ministry and mission of this congregation.
- Come on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 for a book discussion on where God is leading us as individuals and as a congregation.
I’m looking forward to sharing this Lenten journey with you, to the deepening of our faith and ministry together, so that wherever we may find ourselves in the future, whether it is on the high mountain or in the deep valley, we may be a people who reveals the light of Christ and the presence of God’s spirit to all.