Saturday, February 10, 2018

Year B, Transfiguration Sunday, Mark 9.2-9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
There is a Light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome, the radiant glory that comes from the face of God.
Shekinah is the word used to describe it.
Moses came into the glory of God, first at the burning bush.  There he heard God speak as God called him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.  The bush appeared to be ablaze, yet the fire did not consume it.  It was God’s glory.  The shekinah.
Throughout his career, Moses had the rare opportunity to enter into the presence of God, on the Mountain, and more often, in the Tabernacle, and each time there was this glorious light, almost too bright for human eyes.
When Moses would come down from the Mountain, or out of the tabernacle, his face glowed, a reflection of that divine glory, so much so he had to wear a veil to shield the people from the light.
It is this same glory that Jesus entered into in today’s Gospel lesson.
He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
That glory gave witness to the presence of God, both with and in Jesus.
And then, as he had from the burning bush, God spoke.
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
These words, spoken by God, are similar to the Words spoken at Jesus’ baptism:  "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
The disciples were terrified.
There is some light that is simply too bright for our human eyes. 
We squint.  We cover our eyes.  We look away.
But then, when we dare, we open our eyes again, and see only Jesus.
In the Gospel of Mark, there is a journey that takes place, and the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain marks a turning point.
Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi.
Caesarea Philippi was about twenty five miles north of the Sea of Galilee, near Mount Herman, it was the northern most point that Jesus had traveled to during his ministry around Galilee.
There Peter had declared that Jesus was the Messiah.
And there, Jesus had begun to teach the disciples that the that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
And then on the Mountain, the disciples saw the glory of God, that radiant heavenly light, transform Jesus before their eyes, and they heard the voice of God telling them to listen to Jesus.
What happens then is that Jesus fixed his eyes on Jerusalem, and began the journey that would lead him to the cross.
There in Jerusalem, he would die, and he would be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven, to once again be clothed in the glory of God.
This journey, begins in Baptism, and ends at the empty tomb.
And to us, Jesus simply says:  “Follow me.”

One of my favorite Garth Brooks songs is “The Dance”.
Garth sings:
Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance
 I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance
The question within these lyrics is if we knew, the way it all would end, the way it all would go, would we dare to dance the dance?

I think of this song today, because as we baptize Ryker in a few moments, we will mark the beginning of a journey, the journey of life, but more specifically, the journey of life in Christ.
On such a day, “For a moment all the world was right.”
Here you are, in the midst of a community of faith, surrounded by your family, with a precious child of God, Ryker.
And this is the thing.
Whenever we look into the face of our children, and imagine the life they will live, we imagine and hope for only the best.
We do not know what the dance of life will bring their way. 
It just feels right, today.
But if the experience of others, even our own experience, is any indication, back deep within our own mind we know that life will not be all joy and happiness.
There will be triumphs and tragedies.
There will be love found, and lost.
There will be great successes, and humbling failures.
If we knew what is to come, would we dare to dance the dance?  Would we be so ready to invite Ryker to enter into this dance?
The life of faith is a dance that doesn’t just remain on the mountain top.
The disciples wanted to stay there; Peter even offered to build dwelling places.
But Jesus set his eyes on Jerusalem.
He spoke of suffering, dying, and rising again.
In Romans, Paul writes:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
We’d prefer that our baptisms might always be surrounded by the radiant light of God, mountain top experiences of hope and joy.
Wouldn’t it be great if baptism was a promise, an assurance that life would be good, that there would be no suffering, that we’d be protected from all evil?
If it were so, I can guarantee you that Ryker would not be the only one being baptized today.
The truth is that we baptize, not because baptism spares our children from the possibility of experiencing suffering and loss in their lives, but precisely because over the course of their life that’s exactly what they will, in one way or another, experience.
Some of this suffering is just the nature of life.
And some of this suffering may be experienced because we bear the name of Christ.
“Follow me.”  Jesus said, and he set his eyes on Jerusalem and the cross.
Would you go with Jesus on that journey?
Would you wish Ryker go with Jesus on that journey?
In some ways, you have no choice.  That Ryker was born at all means that he will experience joy and suffering, good times and bad, triumphs and failures, and in short, all that life has to offer.
That’s just life.
But the choice to live life as a baptized child of God is a choice to dance the dance with a promise ringing in our ears.
You are my child.
I love you.
And with you, I am well pleased.
These are God’s words that were spoken first to Jesus, and then to us in baptism.
When we feel isolated and alone, we have the promise that we are God’s children, that he is our Father.
When we feel unlovable, overcome with shame, we are reminded that we are beloved of God.
And when our failures and the accompanying guilt overcome us, we are assured that God himself is pleased with us.
And most importantly, we live in the promise that even though we will all one day die, with Christ we will be raised.
And on that day, all the world will be right again.
On that day, we will be glad that we dared to dance the dance.
And on that day, the light of Christ will once again shine a brilliant heavenly white.
May this peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


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