February 11 Transfiguration Sunday Sermon: For now we see in a mirror, dimly

Transfiguration of our Lord February 11, 2018

2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9




Listen now to First Corinthians 13, verse 12: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. 


In the world of Harry Potter, the main character, the young student wizard studying at Hogwarts school for wizards, Harry becomes mesmerized by the mirror of Erised (E-R-I-S-E-D).  He discovers it when he first wears the invisibility cloak and happens upon it, only to see his late parents and family smiling at him.  He goes back to the entrancing mirror again and again, until he is warned against it by Headmaster Albius Dumbledore. Now the name of the mirror, Erised, is desire (D-E-S-I-R-E) spelled backward (like being reflected in a mirror!), and, according to harrypotter.wiki.com The Mirror shows the greatest desire of the one looking into it upon its surface, often with them having achieved some goal or ambition. But Dumbledore’s warning cautions against spending any time with it. Some have gone mad staring at it, losing all sense of reality.  As Dumbledore says, “Men have wasted away before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible.” http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Mirror_of_Erised


Have you ever found yourselves stuck in a world of desire, always dreaming about what may be, your head in the clouds?


Regularly on my report cards from elementary school, my teachers would include a note to my parents that Timmy was a daydreamer.


I think that has continued to today, that I am more often than not thinking about a world that might be, my mind exploring the unknown future while losing myself from the present.


I imagine multiple scenarios that may or may not occur, and have to shake myself out of them in order to be present to someone that is requiring my attention. Do any of you share this proclivity?


What if the two ways intersected with one another?


What if the world that is, the present-day reality up close and right in front of us now intersected with what will be someday in the future, and was also connected to the past?


What if from a new perspective, say way up high on a mountain, or across the Jordan River, or as you hear a proclamation from someone’s lips to your ears, holiness came crashing into the mundane, the divine power of God banged into your perception that was heretofore unavailable and inaccessible?


These are what I see in the scriptural images today. 

These images make us SEE the power of God through the prophet of God Elijah and his successor Elisha, whether they are whacking the mantle once (as Elijah did), or twice (as Elisha later did) to cross the Jordan, and as the wind/Spirit swooshed Elijah into the realm of heaven. 


These images make us see whoa Jesus what? no longer as the rabbi we want to hang around and learn from but beaming and gleaming like glory right in front of us, and talking about last week’s Super Bowl with Moses and Elijah!


This Epiphananic moment rips the blinders off of us who are living with real and imagined fears, always playing out scenarios in their daydreams, and instead make us see Christ as the image of God holding us like precious clay jars and breathing new life.


It’s Transfiguration, It’s awesome.  It shows us like a glimpse into what God has in store for us and crashing into today, this day.


No wonder Peter muttered the stupid words.  He couldn’t think of anything else to say, but “hey, you want to maybe stay overnight?” That Peter, impetuous Peter, is like anyone who says the first thing that comes to mind without many filters, because he was scared to death.


These Epiphanic stories are very enigmatic.  They can’t be easily parsed, but are provocative, they are in your face, they make you wonder if you are indeed staring into Harry Potter’s mirror of Erised or if this idea of holiness and divinization so beloved by Christian traditions may allow us to live into mystery and see the face of God in unexpected places, in the created combination of order, beauty, and chaos, and in people we thought were just ordinary people, when in truth they shine the light of God so brightly if we but have eyes to see.


Jacquie Tiedeman wasn’t who I thought she was.  I thought she was a widow to Bruce, Bruce an army vet, a successful engineer, Jacquie a faithful member of our congregation’s altar guild.  I thought Jacquie was a bit of a tragic figure, having lost a grown daughter before I knew her to an eating disorder. I knew she was a dog lover, and a friend to many.  But in a hospital bed, in her dying days, she responded to scripture like she had a vision. 


4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
 I fear no evil;
 for you are with me;
 your rod and your staff — 
 they comfort me.
 5You prepare a table before me
 in the presence of my enemies;
 you anoint my head with oil;
 my cup overflows.
 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
 all the days of my life,
 and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
 my whole life long.


Jacquie Tiedeman listened to the ending words of Psalm 23 with a beatific face.  She was transfigured.  She appeared to be so much brighter and clearer than a dear parishioner succumbing to her cancer.


And she said, “I’m ready for what God has in store for me. Just take care of Charlotte.” Charlotte was like Jacquie, another widow, another pillar of the congregation who if you looked hard enough you would see the divine pouring out of her as she spoke lovingly to young and old alike, and puttered around church with purpose.  At that moment, on the third floor of Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, I heard Jacquie as someone crossing over into a land of promise, radiating light in a rather drab clinical environment, and I felt as we were together as she crossed a boundary, and as I looked it was if she herself had put on glory as a garment given to her in her baptism.


There are prophets that stand tall in the annals of holy writ like Elijah who did not die but was taken into heaven as the mantle was passed to Elisha, and Elisha too paying it forward.


There are truth tellers that live in my memory like Jacquie and Charlotte who straddled aging and the vagaries of decline with dignity, so easily loving and dispensing generosity and wisdom as if they were made to shine for those of us who drank up their spirit as if they offered a double portion.


There are images of Jesus that astound and confuse and awe, but which also put us face to face with God’s promised life that looks like the resurrection to come.  That’s Transfiguration.


That’s today, where we lift our Alleluias before putting them away for a time.  That’s today, when we look at one another to see if we can see divinity emanating from what we say, how we approach the gift of new life in bread and wine, how we see the delight of children processing and are moved to see just one more Epiphany before coming down the mountain and into the journey of Lent, itself something that reveals what I like to call the Paschal Mystery in so many words, like these

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. 


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