Last Sunday of Epiphany – The Transfiguration

Your bulletin mentions today that you will hear a “homily”. In case you don’t know, a homily is a short sermon. I have a friend priest who adds jokingly that if a homily is a short sermon, then a short homily is an omelet. When she’s very busy with church business during during the week, she says: “That’s fine, on Sunday morning, we’ll just have an omelette”.

This week the sermon is shorter than usual because we want to leave time for Lucille who offered to deliver a message for Black History Month. When we had our vestry retreat, I encouraged all vestry members to preach once during their term. It’s important to think of the vestry (and all those involved in church work) as spiritual leaders. They are not only those handling finances, dealing with building issues, but we need to remember that they also decide where the church is heading….

– So first a message about today’s Gospel:

Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany (before we enter Lent on Wed), and it is also the feast of the Transfiguration, we have just heard the story. When I have to preach on a “famous” passage of the Scriptures, I often have a look at what I preached the years before. As I did so this time, I was surprised to realize that I had preached on Mark’s and Luke’s version of the Transfiguration but not Matthew’s.

When there is the same story in different Gospels (which happens quite often), it’s interesting to notice the small details that differ. Those details often give us a quite unique perspective on the author of the Gospel’s theology – his way of understanding God at work in Jesus’s life.

And so what stands out for me when I hear this version of the Transfiguration (compared to the two other ones) is this first sentence: “Six days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain, by themselves and he was transfigured before them.”

– “Six days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ”.Very interesting to me b/c it acknowledges that Peter first confessed his faith (If you remember, it is this also famous passage when Jesus asks: Who do you say that I am?” Ch 16, we’re in 17) and THEN Peter sees Jesus’s glory. FIRST he confesses, first he believes and THEN he can see it, and then it is revealed to his eyes.

Quite extraordinary right? We expect the other way around: You see (something) and then you believe (it’s real). I never believed there were something like white squirrels until I saw one!

– And yet, it seems that it makes sense though, if you start to think about it that sometimes we need first to believe to be able to see. You know, we all live in the same world and our eyes work the same, yet we see things in very different ways: We tend to ignore what’s not relevant to us but we notice the things that are useful or important to us. Have you ever noticed for example when people give you directions the landmarks they have? Some people notice churches, or restaurants, or they tell you the number of the highway, or that’s it’s right after the liquor store!

For me, we often have those funny dialogues with Xavier who is always surprised that I haven’t noticed the wireless terminal in the room, the camera at the door or the radar on the road! Yet, I am the one who spots first what’s left in the fridge.

We see the world differently, we notice what is important to us, what is familiar, what we enjoy but also we notice what expect to see, what we are looking for. And I think it is important to remember this is the way our mind works because it works the same when it comes to noticing God.

Like Peter, we will start seeing God’s glory / discerning God’s presence in Jesus if we start believing that God is present and acting in Jesus. True also in our lives: We will see God’s actions and God’s glory in our lives, if we believe it’s real.

– If you expect to find God, you will find God. Peter had opened his heart, mind, soul to see God’s glory in Jesus and THEN he was able to see it in his flesh. Of course, it’s not about auto persuasion either. Like if you believe in martians and you will start seeing them everywhere! But it’s a pattern, a sort of virtuous circle:

You start to be open to something and then you start noticing it and as you see it, then you’re even more open to it etc. You start being familiar with God by readings the Scriptures, serving people, praying and then you notice God. We used to call that a “spiritual practice”. But we need to pause to do that, to start noticing, and that is exactly what the disciples are doing today. They go on Mont Tabor to take a break from their busy lives (They’ve just fed the 5000) and, main, they also take a break from their anxiety and restlessness (Jesus’s just announced his passion) and then they are able to see.

– We’re going to do that in Lent. Take time to be with God, reading the Scriptures, praying…b/c we also are invited to see. We need to learn how to see. March 28th: Artist Peggy Parker is offering a Quiet Day for us. She is an artist but also a teacher, and one of the things she says that I love is that: Seeing is a holy act (Last week, we talked about the sinful act of staring!). We have to learn to see in a holy way – learn to see God’s presence, to see God at work – even and maybe especially when, like the disciples, we feel exhausted or discouraged. When I feel like that, I often do a simple prayer to open the day, to see things in a different way “Let me see your love, your comfort, give me an opportunity to laugh / to feel appreciated” and it happens. Maybe it happens every day but b/c I do the prayer, I notice God’s presence.

We think so much that our job as Christians is to do many things for God…Sometimes it is just to contemplate. It transforms us. When we see beauty, we feel better and we act kinder. Seeing beauty in others, not only people but also in nature, work of Art, and also in us make us more respectful and attentive. We want to take care of what’s beautiful. To honor it. So often, we see the world as tool / we are always on the look what we need (the liquor store) / How we can use the world. But if we pause we are given a chance to see the world for what it is – freely given and filled with God’s glory. Even in difficult times, we can see God at work. I hope you will accept this invitation during Lent towards learning holy seeing.

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