It started as a whisper, barely audible,
leaving me disoriented and confused.
Light streaming through stained glass
Images of martyrs and saints filtered
Through dust dancing in the air.
It was late summer afternoon
In a downtown church
Three, maybe four o’clock,
And I’d arrived early simply to
Breathe. To get away. To pray.
In the midst of our hurried lives
Sometimes we simply need to find sanctuary, to listen.
Even if we’re unsure if listening would do anything.
The smell of polished pews filled the air
Beeswax and car exhaust
From the constant stream of traffic
Passing by those great old doors.
What started as a whisper
Became clearer in silence
Leading me to tremble in awe
Both at what I heard,
And what steps I might need to take next
All of which is to say that while today’s
story of Jesus, Peter, James and John,
High on the mountaintop,
Away from the crowds,
Seems incredible, mysterious, unbelievable,
Cloaked in mystery, and
Impossible to explain,
I too have known that place of mystical encounter,
That moment when
The earth stands still,
When the camera’s focus turns soft
When the brandy warms your body from head to toe
In the cold winter of the soul.
That place where God clearly speaks
Arresting our attention
Inviting us to listen to Jesus, the Beloved.
It’s a moment when life suddenly changes
When you know that the past has no more hold on you than it ought
And the only thing to do now is to walk forward
into God’s future
I have experienced that place of transfiguration
And I hope to know it again.
I have known that place of transfiguration
And perhaps you have too.
And if you have, or even if you haven’t,
Now that we can see each other’s faces,
I look forward to hearing your stories of faith lost and found
Stories of God’s faithfulness to you
and this community as we have opportunity
in the days ahead
I think about this biblical scene from time to time
Awed and amazed,
As one who grew up in the modern church
First in a bastion of literalism
Emphasizing heart over head
now a resident alien in Anglican liberalism with its
seeming over-emphasis on head over heart
All the while head and heart, body and strength, all of them
Ought all be our companions on the journey
Into the eye of the storm of God’s love.
Our church, the Anglican church that is, is all too often characterized
By its rational approach to religious phenomena
Getting skittish around the tradition’s more irrational stories.
Stories like the transfiguration,
stories of wonder and awe,
Stories without clear and provable scientific explanation.
Have you noticed the way our modern minds want to categorize
These inexplicable ecstatic experiences,
To name them, explain them away,
Perhaps even shaming those who resonate with them
Writing them off as crazy,
At odds with what is normal or rational or so-called right?
And yet our faith is a story as inexplicable
As it is true. And that is why we come together
On mornings like this one
With others who have had similar experiences,
Glimpses of Divine Grace.
That is why we come together
To put the pieces of the puzzle together again
As we seek to better understand,
to dwell for a moment in the divine mystery
And to get a stronger sense of where Jesus is leading us.
Up on the mountaintop with Jesus
In the company of the Great Prophets:
Moses and Elijah
we disciples seek to make sense of it all
As though what we experience here in this place
In these walls
In the Eucharistic mystery
Means something for how we might live.
Because certainly it does.
As if awakened from slumber,
Perhaps exhausted by all that we have taken on
and all that’s been thrust upon us
In our daily ministry in the world—
The ministry each of us has by
Virtue of our baptism:
Proclaiming Good News
Teaching and Nurturing new believers
Tending to the sick and caring for those in poverty,
Tackling systems that oppress
And preserving the earth, our island home.
The ministry each of us has by virtue of our humanity:
Worrying about and caring for
members of our community and families who
Are sick in body or mind,
Those amongst us who have given up hope
Or perhaps, those who feel as though God has given up on them.
Like the disciples, we spend our lives
Seeking to make sense of it all,
To grow in relationship to God
And then sometimes it all clicks, comes into focus.
Experiences like this—mystical union with God—
Can be signposts along a faith journey
Winding, Beautiful, Unpredictable as it is.
I love the story of the transfiguration,
Not because it’s an everyday experience,
But because it’s not.
The transfiguration is an audacious whisper
From a world rarely experienced
A vision rarely glimpsed
A story available to us
But not predictably so.
Like Jesus’ miraculous healings
and his earth-shattering resurrection,
it is a whisper that beckons those with ears to hear
To actively respond with their whole selves to the liberating whisper of God
A whisper that will set the course for Jesus
And the disciples as they come down transformed
By their encounters on the mountain, chins set towards
Jerusalem, Calvary, and the Cross.
That’s the way of the gospel.
It doesn’t come in as a shout for all to hear.
It comes as a barely discernible whisper
To a few who witness it,
Who believe not just because of what’s been revealed,
But often in spite of it.
That’s the way of the gospel.
It doesn’t come with coercive power
It comes as peaceful as a baby’s sigh
As unexpected as a burning bush
And we are the ones invited, when we hear it
To take the risk to say yes,
this is a word from God.
The gospel comes as a barely discernible whisper,
And sometimes when we hear it,
We respond in ways less than helpful
Trying to contain God’s glory, to
Hold it, calcify it, to nail it down.
But even when we come with hammer and nails,
we find that the bonds are broken,
the dwelling too small,
The stone will be rolled away.
The Good News will not be contained
We will not succeed in containing
The world-shaping, life-changing, liberating
Love of God.
I feel for Peter, James, and John,
I resonate with their impulse to
Capture the moment.
With dwellings, perhaps—
or maybe a selfie proving it all went down
The way I remember
And yet God’s invitation in this moment
To you, to me, to all of us, is not
To preserve particular moments
Particular experiences (change us though they may).
That we listen.
That we carve out time.
That we make ourselves available
For the work of God’s kingdom.
The work of Self-Giving Love
That sends us out to live differently
To embody compassion and justice and care
In all our relationships.
Have you ever had a moment like that?
A moment so vivid and transformative
That even though it’s been many years, you can remember
its sights, tastes, and sounds?
You can remember the way it felt in your body.
You can remember in ways deeper than words
The moment that changed everything?
Maybe it was the moment you knew that they were the one.
Maybe it was the moment you came out of the closet to a close friend, or perhaps to yourself.
Maybe it was the moment you threw in your lot with Jesus and his church
Maybe it was the moment you somehow knew it was time to take a next, uncertain step in your life’s journey, knowing it was right, yet unable to explain why or how.
Every moment is ripe with that invitation.
The scriptures bear this out time and again.
Sometimes we are more attuned to
The whisper of God’s persistent invitation than others.
That day in the back of that downtown church,
I heard in words that were audible and clear,
“You should go to seminary.”
The voice was warm, but firm.
It was beyond me, yet deeply within me.
I still don’t know what to make of it all.
Even though I thought it was crazy at the time,
And far from the path I’d been on
I held on to that idea. Disoriented, I kept it under wraps
Until one day I made the mistake
Of sharing it with some prayerful friends
Who said, “you know, you’re either crazy, or God might be saying something.”
I heard the words, and eventually,
Through the support of a loving, discerning community,
Started to live into the reality that had been spoken
Ever since, my life has taken on a trajectory
I did not expect.
Perhaps you have a story like that too.
A story about whispers and nudges and extreme awe
A story about being thrust into something that scared you
And yet was more right than you could know
In the midst of it, the divine voice
Affirming us as we listen to and follow after Jesus.
Over the years, as I’ve turned over the
I’ve come to see:
The transfiguration is more than a divine magic show
It’s the mysterious whisper from the Great Beyond
It is another manifestation of God’s invitation, God’s persistent invitation to
Live in a way that runs counter to the
Wisdom of the world,
To be a peculiar people, a people who give of themselves
For the good of the world around us.
The transfiguration calls us disciples, each and every one of us,
to rest, to listen, and to be transformed
In our encounters with God
in scripture, tradition, reason,
in creation, and in relationship with one another
In this we are reminded
that we are called to be a people
sent from these transformative experiences with Jesus
bearing witness to the hope that we’ve found.
It starts with a whisper
But it doesn’t end there.
It starts with a whisper,
But the ripples travel farther than we can ever know.
They transform our lives, and through us,
The life of the world
as God, through us,
Seeks to reconcile all things.
So may we be people who listen
For the whisper of God
Following in the way of Jesus
In our lives, in the life of our community,
That we might participate with God
in the renewal, transformation, and reconciliation of all things
Until all are liberated. Until all are free.
Until God’s dream of justice and joy, compassion and peace,
are available for one and all.