February 6, 2005
by Doug Wysockey-Johnson
Transfiguration Sunday, 2005
[This sermon was given from an outline. The outline is collected here.]
* Today is not only Super Bowl Sunday. There has been slightly less media attention, but also last Sunday in season of Epiphany, called Transfiguration Sunday.
(Lent begins Wed. — do something fun)
* Epiphany is season of the church year when Gospel writers want to say clearly that ‘Jesus is the Messiah’. It is almost as if they were embarrassed by the Son of God arriving in a backwater town in a smelly stable.
–Starting with arrival of Wise Men at stable, most of the stories of epiphany have Jesus doing something significant. Than, people around him had epiphanies–realizing that ‘Jesus is son of God’
* Good example: First Sunday of Epiphany the text is always about the baptism of Jesus: skies open, voice from the heavens says, ‘This is my son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased’.
–Now the last Sunday, Jesus on a high mountain; they are enveloped in a cloud, and a voice again says, ‘This is my son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased’
* Strikes me that if the only concern of Matthew was establishing that Jesus was god’s son, he could have just said that. ‘This is my son’. Period.
–But twice Matthew reports God gushing a bit, as parents tend to do: This is my son the beloved. I am so pleased with him’. (Eugene Petterson translation: ‘this is my son, marked by my love, the focus of my delight’)
–This gushing seems important to Matthew. I think it was important to Jesus. I know it is important to me. I hope it is important to Soren.
What Makes Jesus Divine?
* I need to tell you that I have quite an impressive Christian pedigree. Or depressing, depending on your perspective.
–raised in a Christian home; attended Sunday school, faithfully; went to Christian camps, Christian college, graduated from seminary. I knew Amy Grant songs back when she started out. I even sat at the feet of Deborah Sokolove and David Lloyd.
* Yet. I still cannot tell you what it is that makes Jesus God’s son.
–It is a great mystery how Jesus could be fully human yet fully divine.
–I know that ‘in the beginning was the word and the word was with god and this word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ I know that the scriptures say Jesus was born of a virgin. Is that the basis of his divinity?
* In thinking about the transfiguration story this week, I have been wondering if the divinity of Christ has something to do with his belovedness.
–Jesus as the one who more than any of us was able to take in the love of God. The one who new beyond all else that his fundamental identity was the beloved child of God. .
–The one who was so liberated by that love, that it enabled him to embrace and love the world fully. So loved that he could love his enemies. So loved that he could wash the feet of his disciples. So loved that he could carry on like a drunkard and glutton and not worry about what others thought. So loved that he could ask for forgiveness of those who were killing him.
–Not because he was some superman who was not effected, or did not feel. But because he knew how loved he was.
Hopes for Soren
* Earlier, we asked Regina and Dave to speak their hopes for Soren.
* I too have many hopes for him
–I hope he likes the sports I do and the teams I like, so I can do those things with him and be considered a good dad. (Love to watch Wimbledon or football game and consider that quality time.)
–hope he is healthy. Hope he values learning. Creative. Hope he falls in love.
* But if I had to say one thing, it would be that he would be able to take as deeply into his bones as possible that he is God’s beloved child, and the focus of God’s delight.
Love Transfigures Us
* I want this for him because I believe (to use the word of the day) that love transfigures us. It changes us, which is what transfiguration means.
–Unconditional love does not spoil us, or make us live lives of entitlement. It changes us and frees us to give ourselves to others. Years ago, Henri Nouwen wrote:
“The basis of all ministry is the experience of God’s unlimited and unlimiting acceptance of us as beloved children, and acceptance so full, so total and all-embracing, that it sets us free from our compulsion to be seen, praised, and admired and free for Christ who leads us on the road of service.”
Or these simpler words from the author Toni Morrison: ‘The purpose of freedom is to make others free.’
* I believe that this love of God will not turn him into a robot. He will still need affirmation, still relish praise, enjoy support. However, I believe God’s love can free him from being a slave to those things.
Loved by Others
* How will Soren know that he is God’s beloved? How will he be transfigured? How will that identity be formed in him?
–I do hope he will hear the stories of scripture. I want him to learn about Jesus, hear the tradition. That is head stuff.
* Mostly, he will be transfigured by God’s love as it is communicated through others.
* At least that has been true in my life:
– My mom wrote me a letter after learning that I had failed sophomore English. The letter said that this grade does not define you. It is not your identity.
–The time my brother came to sit with me after a relationship had ended. His presence said to me that this failed relationship does not define you. It is not your ultimate identity.
–More recently, I was heading into a FAW board meeting, filled with anxiety and insecurity. Talking about it with Kathryn, and she said, ‘yea, maybe the board meeting will be bad’. By naming my fear, it reminded me that it was not my identity on the line. That came from somewhere else.
* Those experiences changed me; transfigured me. They reminded me that my core identity lie in God’s delight.
–Enabled me to be a different person in the world at that time, than I would have been had they not shared themselves.
* Along with Jesus humanity and divinity, I do not fully understand what happens in baptism (but those are the only two–everything else makes complete sense).
– (I told someone the other day that the only reason I am doing this is so he will sleep better.)
–Frederick Buechner said, “When it comes to the forgiving and transforming love of God, one wonders if the 6 month old screecher knows all that much less than the Archbishop of Canterbury.” Who knows? What has changed?
* But I watched him the other day in his jumpy seat (hangs in the doorway)
–nearly jumped out of the seat. He is already so strong. He is so full of energy.
* He will use that energy in a million different ways throughout his life.
–make good decisions and bad
* Starting today, I hope that his life force is slowly transfigured by the love of God.
* So that he knows in his bones that he is the delight of God.
* So that he is as free a person as he can be.
* So that he is a gift to the world. AMEN