In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.
I started out working on this sermon thinking it was based on a different Gospel lesson. In fact, I had almost the entire sermon laid out in my mind before I realized it was the wrong lesson. And let me tell you, it was a good one! Not a very auspicious start when you are putting a sermon together and working on the wrong passage. Fortunately I eventually realized the error of my ways and started focusing on the passage actually read today.
The story today is the story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. The transfiguration occurred in a rather quiet and lonely place. There was no great fanfare for the transfiguration. No loud rush of wind and fire like at Pentecost. Just the quiet stillness and a very powerful event. Often I think that I expect God to work in “big” ways. Miracles of raising the dead and healing the leper come to mind. But when you sit down and count the actual number of miracles found recorded in the Gospels there are not really that many during Jesus earthly ministry. It is just that they are the things that grab our attention. We focus on the spectacular at the risk of missing so much in life.
When Elijah was to see the Lord, he found the Lord in very strange circumstances. He did not find God in the places he or I would have expected to. God was not found in the great wind, a wind so strong that it split mountains and broke rocks. And God was not found in the earthquake, a force powerful enough to tear the very earth apart. God was not found in the fire, which I find interesting since God so often was indeed found in fire from time to time. But Elijah recognized the Lord instantly. When Elijah heard the sound of sheer silence (can you even hear silence), Elijah wrapped his face and went to meet God.
A very similar thing happened at the transfiguration. There was not great clap of thunder to announce the power and presence of God. There was no wind or storm or earthquake or fire. There was only a quiet silence as the powerful event occurred. And the apostles present realized they were experiencing the power of God.
Then Peter, like many of us when face with a powerful event leaving us speechless, finds he voice and blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind. Ever been there? I know I have. Then a voice from heaven announces that Jesus is the son and that they should listen to him. By now, I’m sure Peter wishes he had just remained silent.
This event was so powerful in the lives of those witnessing it that Peter even recalls the event in his second letter.
But at the moment it happened they were speechless and terrified. And sometimes that is how God can leave us feeling. Speechless and terrified. But beyond the speechlessness and terror God was working in their lives. And God changed their lives. They exhibited several qualities in this story that allowed God to work so powerfully.
First, they were available to God. They could have begged off the trip up the mountain with Jesus. They could have made excuses. They could have had more pressing engagements in their lives than a mountain trek with Jesus. The could have said they were too tired that day. But they didn’t make excuses. They didn’t have other priorities in their lives. They were available and willing to follow Jesus. Do we live that same life of availability to God? In order for God to work in our lives we have to be available like Peter, James and John were. If we fail to make ourselves available then we will miss opportunities to grow as a Christian. When there are so many competing things in our lives it is easy to make excuses when it is inconvenient to be available for God.
Second, they were willing to make mistakes. Peter never backed down from trying something, anything, when he was confronted with the unknown. So he was brave enough to risk being wrong in his suggestion to build three dwellings to try and contain the amazing power of God. And yet, when the voice from heaven spoke, it was not to rebuke Peter. It was to speak the truth. I know that sometimes it is easier to keep quiet and keep your mouth shut than risk making a mistake. That is the risk we all run. Making the decision to take the “safe” way out can rob of us opportunities for change and growth. Choosing to not take the risk and make ourselves vulnerable may allow us to feel safe but it robs us of opportunities. Just like Peter stepping out of the boat in faith to meet Jesus in another Gospel story. We can either choose to risk and meet God or we can choose the safe path.
We can choose to do nothing and perhaps miss out on the
greatest opportunity in our life.
For all the apostles, it changed their lives forever. Peter recalls this pivotal event in his letter. But had he been too tired, or too busy, or too afraid, or too whatever to make the trek up the mountain he would have been robbed of that experience of God.
That is the danger we need to look out for in our own lives. Realizing that one of the places we meet God is in silence it then becomes a challenge for each and every one of us to allow for the silence of God in our lives. But for some reason we tend to hate the silence. It is uncomfortable. We feel the need to fill silence with sound or activities. Silence can be torture for us. Even the short silence during our prayers can be a painful experience for some.
It is in our learning to embrace and enjoy the silence in an expectation that God will speak to us that is the lesson for today. Rather that fearing silence or being uncomfortable with it and seeking to fill it with something, anything to make the silence go away we need to learn to embrace it. For in the silence, like Elisha, we can meet God.