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Walking in the Light

Sermon - 2/14/10
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

Luke 9:28-36

Did you see the Olympics opening ceremony? I loved the story, just after the parade, the show begins.  That first traveler came out – the experience of the individual and his story…and he comes to the tribes, the communities  and he bangs his staff and this blue spark…and then again, and it grew…wasn’t that so cool how perfectly timed that part was?  And the light spread…it grew and grew.  And he’d strike he ground again with the staff and the light grew…Became that beautiful ocean and carried the story forward…

Let’s read another story of light in Luke.  Join me if you’d like in your pew bible…pg.        .  Luke 9:28-36.  This morning I’m reading from the New International Version.

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah,  appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.  

Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)

While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."  When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

         Being in the presence of God can change our lives. 

I don’t know how many in the room would say that they’ve experienced something like what Luke has left with us – this story is a trip.  It’s a brief moment shared by the 4 (or 6 if you count Moses & Elijah being there).  But then really, when you think about your whole life up to now – 3 years, 50 years, 80 years 18 years –

         Your life has been a trip too, right?  We’ve all got, with such crazy twists and turns.  And it only begins to sound stranger when we start putting the word God into the story…I feel you. 

Being in the presence of God, even for a moment,  can change our lives, what can living in the presence of God do?

On this Transfiguration Sunday, the Lectionary has us reading from Luke’s version.  Well it’s our good fortune…because Luke takes what appears to be a magical story, a mysterious lucid dream, and reminds us that we don’t ever have to be but who we are – and we can still know God and we shine in the presence of God.

         About Eight days later…eight days after what?  Well eight days after Jesus had been teaching with all the disciples, gathering with the crowds and feeding the 5,000. Luke's tells the disciples that their lives can change by believing in him, by following God He says "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." 

Well what does that mean?  Well Luke says, Keep reading! And he takes us to this story where and go up the mountain. This was an opportunity, like we all get little opportunities, to study in a small group, and deepen their connection to god.  and so they go up the mountain to pray together, and they do!  They do see the kingdom of God.

You all know how difficult it can be learning to pray together!  It is not an easy thing to do, is it?  So simple and so complex.

Learning to pray just you and God is one kind of challenge and then to add other people to the mix is…another kind of challenge.  Opportunity.  Challenge.  Opportunity.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

         So in this challenge/opportunity, Jesus begins to pray, but the group is not feeling it.  Well, Jesus is, and soon they all become enveloped in his ability to speak, to pray. 

I know, what it actually says they fall asleep on him…

          but this is actually our opportunity to learn.. you see -

In other places of Luke, Going to sleep signified a lack of faith, a lack of understanding and boy let me tell you these disciples, in this moment, found themselves in the presence of God with Jesus speaking and Moses and Elijah were there and they were VERY sleepy -  I might be equally “sleepy” –

but so the disciples are “very sleepy”, seriously lacking faith in this moment, BUT! It says BUT!   

BUT! they when they became fully awake they saw the light.  Literally I suppose.  Settled down into the moment and saw the presence of God too.  Looked at Jesus and saw God in him and were also filled with God.    

So you can fall asleep – well not in here you can’t!  No I mean you can fall asleep in the Lukan sense, you can doubt.   You may lack faith in some moments, but I believe that God is greater than your doubts, God is your doubts and is your gratitude when we find yourself full of faith - fully awake, fully living in that light. 

From Luke's perspective, we are more than our doubts too. Transfiguration is not only a celebration of the events of Jesus' life that led his life to be changed - how he grew and shone in the presence of God.  Transfiguration Sunday is a celebration of our own growth with God.  

Ah ha!  Luke, you sweetheart!  Trying to leave us with a glimpse of hope, more than a glimpse an insight into building the kingdom of God.  Talking with God, listening to God’s voice, walking in the way of love, and peace, and inclusivity, letting that hot radiant brightly divine light in you SHINE.

Luke is our little Valentine, he loves us!  Wants us to know how God is experienced.

Moses is another man who physically changed when in the presence of God.  Exodus 34:29-35 explains how Moses would wear a veil over his face - when he was with the people and when in the presence of God up on the mountain he would remove it and glow, and when he came back down he would dim it for everyone.   The cloud the envelopes them is another reference to the presence of God as received by Moses - throughout the book of Exodus, really through 1 Kings, God is present to the Israelites as a cloud.  Luke reminds us that God will guide us when we seek God.  God will become visible to you when you start looking with eyes to see God. 

You know both Matthew and Mark have versions of this transfiguration story in their gospels.  Neither make any mention of the purpose of the journey – no mention of prayer - no context given for why the disciples were going up the mountain with Jesus.  The same basic account of events takes place and then coming back down the mountain Jesus commands them NOT to tell anyone what they saw...what?!?  What you talkin’ bout, Jesus? 

No seriously that’s always a red flag for me in Mark – this absolute secrecy required by Jesus – you read that it’s just another opportunity…to deepen your understanding and get to know God better!

But so…

In all three gospels, after witnessing these events Peter, John, James don't tell anyone what they've seen, what they've heard.  And Moses wearing the veil and the people not speaking about his changed self - Are they afraid they will be called crazy?  Are they afraid of authenticity?  Is Moses being humble and trying to not show off?  Afraid they misunderstood what actually happened?  We know they were afraid, but we don’t know what they are afraid of - What are we afraid of?  It is difficult to take the first steps toward the light of God but with practice, with prayer, with time, it gets easier.  With one another to help, it gets easier.

Think about what a difference it makes, to your own sense of who you are, to have an awareness of the real presence of God in your life?  It helps you through each and every day.   

You don’t have to hide that!  We can and should encourage one another to shine!  Don’t keep hidden what is so beautifully from within you and around you?  “Let your light shine…” says Jesus that all can see good and see God in you.  Celebrate the change within- the disciples kept to themselves because they were afraid but we can pick up where they left off, we can believe that we are more than our fear, more than our excuses, more than our hesitation.  We can hear Jesus’ message that we too are the light of the world. 

It’s like speed skating – exhilarating and scarier than – well scary. 

No Seriously, I love the Olympics.  It almost snuck up on me without my knowing it, hardly saw a commercial.  But I love it because I think it celebrates that individual spirit and the common universal spirit.  I see all those people, from all over the world, singing and dancing and challenging each other and encouraging each other and I can't help but smile in that light.  And every national anthem sounds beautiful when in that space and time and in celebration of what unites us.  Did you hear that girl sing O Canada?  My God.  (Nikki Yanofsky)

Talk about a bright light. 

Jesus says that when we are ready, when we are the seeker, God's presence surrounds us at every turn.  It's okay to be afraid, and excited, and amazed and all of it – as long as the light shines.  That shines in you and through you in your most private moments, when you think no one is looking, that is the light that you are called to shine in your most public moments too - that radiant, beautiful YOU.

Living in the presence of God means we, as a people of faith, can stand with integrity in God’s presence and move past our fear, so that we can shine as witnesses of God’s love for all.  Living in the presence of God means we, as a people of faith, stand and look into the faces of one another and see the presence of God reflected there.  On the faces of the people we see crossing the street in front of our cars.  The other children and families who share classrooms with our own children. 

Walking in that Light of God, living in that Light, is when we become the builders of the kingdom of God right here, right now.


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