Monday, February 23, 2009

Transfiguration Sunday Sermon: Out of the Shining of Remembered Days

Sermon Texts

Transfiguration gives us a template for worship

Important not to try and pitch our tents at one hallowed experience. 

He went downhill.  There is more to faith than having experiences.


My sermon today has basically been an adaptation from the Interpreter’s Bible Reflection of Halford E. Luccock


Transfiguration may remind us of what worship may mean—a shining hour, high and lifted up, when Jesus and his revelation of God are luminous from within, their own self authenticating evidene, with a glow such as no fuller on earth can supply. 


Life’s best hopes and highest aspirations are validated. A poet has written of old age and the “last song” he would make “out of the shining of remembered days.”  Worship may be this steady “shining of remembered days,” a sustaining power.


Paul, besides being scourged and imprisoned, remembered in Acts 26, “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun. shining around me, and hearing a voice.” 


Does worship have that sustaining power for us?  That despite the difficult periods of our lives be reminded of God’s presence and power?


Poem byu Eunice Tietjens,

But I shall go down from this airy place, this swift white peace,
  this stinging exultation.
And time will close about me, and my soul stir to the rhythm
  of the daily round.
Yet, having known, life will not press so close, and always I shall feel time
  ravel thin about me;
For once I stood
In the white windy presence of eternity.


A life which has no transfigured hours of worship is poor, no matter how rich the furniture.


Mountain top experience. 


Science and biology attest to something actually happening in our brains when we are truly at worship or at prayer or meditation. 

We are given the ability to see beyond or within. 


However, this scripture also speaks about the danger implicit in every complete satisfaction.  Getting life pegged at that point. 


Think of the many areas in which the mood of Peter, when he said in effect “let’s stay here and build,” blocks the possibilities of life.


Always a tragedy when a person moves on everywhere else but leaves his religious thinking behind, pegs his spiritual experience at a point away back in the past.


A life which might have been a voyage of discovery is chained to a spot reached before any genuine exploration could really begin. 


Also is sometimes the result of a faith which has refused to grow, and so no longer is able to fit an expanding world of experience and need.


Sometimes underlies that penchant for “the way we’ve always done it.” 


It was good for Peter to have the experience, not good for him to try and prolong it.  He had to go on to new experiences of understanding and discipleship.  The voice said, “Listen to Him!”


((((( Take these words into your imagination.  Let them run freely over time and space.  Consider how many occasions there have been when the words “This is my beloved son, listen to him” have been and are the supreme wisdom. 


When a life looks out on the world in the early years, when it is choosing its goals and its way, its ambitions and aspirations, then listen to him who rejected the proffered kingdoms of this world for the larger kingdom of God.


Many years ago Rudyard Kipling gave an address at McGill University in Montreal. He said one striking thing which deserves to be remembered. Warning the students against an over-concern for money, or position, or glory, he said: “Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are. 


When life goes into eclipse, when darkness covers the face of the sun, in sorrow and failure and despair, then listen to him who was a man of sorrows, and whose revelation of God brings the sustaining word of comfort and the enabling word of hope. 


When life waxes in might and gathers power or riches, when the siren song of self-indulgence are sounding, then listen to him who can save life from going to pieces. 


Raphael’s picture of the transfiguration.  Shows the strking contrast between the mountaintop and what awaits the disciples down the hill. Above, the beauty of that high vidsion; beow, tragic need and suffering, the impotence of the disciples, and the fruitless discussion about it. 


We commonly hear the phrase “going downhill” applied to a person in a condemning or pitying manner.  When we say someone is “going downhill” we mean that he has seen better days, that he is descending to an anti-climax. 


But there is a nobler sense of the words as well—the sense in which Jesus spent his whole life going downhill from the high and lonely places, where he held communion with God, to the level, crowded palaces of human need.


There are those who spend much of their time on the fine art of “going uphill,” climbing to some height of advantage, position, power, or wealth, and pay no attention at all to this much finer art, the art of going downhill.  It is the lifelong descent from the place of vision to the place of deed, from the hill of privilege to the plain of need. 


This is the trajectory of the life of our savior attested to in the Kenosis passage we read earlier.  It is a hymn from our earliest history, and means “emptiness” or “poured out.”  Jesus didn’t stop going downhill.  He went all the way down the hill through another uphill climb to Golgotha.  After dying on the cross, our creed states that he even descended into the land of the dead. 


We should glorify this man, because he went all the way downhill for the sake of us.  So that we may be lifted up and transfigured along with him.  

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