Listen to Him… On Purpose… All the way to Golgotha
REV. CHRISTIAN BARON – February 7, 2016 – Last Sunday After the Epiphany
About eight days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
It was a hot and sticky day in Traverse City in August of 2000. I had spent the night before sleeping in a tent with some friends at Traverse City State Park. I remember wanting to stay up late into the night but I was too tired… too anxious… So I wrapped things up and let my friends sit by the fire. It was loud… the State Park in Traverse is right next to the highway… right next to it.
In the morning I drove to the church and got dressed.
I was 23 and kind of terrified.
I walked down the aisle with my brother… I could hardly breathe.
That’s when Jodi appeared at the back of the church. There she was… walking down the aisle.. her veil covering her face. I remember it all like it was yesterday… mostly because I asked Jodi yesterday about the specifics. But what I do remember is that, even with the veil… things were too real… too powerful… too intense. To be honest, I’m not sure if it would have made a difference if she wasn’t wearing the veil.
And, maybe the veil is an archaic prop that the $72 billion dollar a year wedding industry sees as icing on the cake. Perhaps many of us don’t understand the symbolism behind it so it’s just one more things to add to the list of wedding items to purchase. This was the case for me… I didn’t remember the story of Jacob and how Laban tricked him into marrying Leah. He dresses her in Rachel’s fine clothes, gets Jacob drunk, has her fitted with a thick veil, and that’s the recipe for marrying off your less desirable daughter.
Most likely when you hear the word veil, you think of your own wedding or a wedding you attended. Perhaps you think of the closely related Burqa that is worn by some women who practice Islam. Or maybe you think of skiing in the town of Vail at one of the massive resorts in Colorado… It is spelled differently, but I tool the middle school students skiing yesterday and wrote my sermon while sitting in the Lodge… (Whatever the case, I’m sure some sort of image comes to mind when you heard the stories from the lectionary today).
In Ancient Israel, and perhaps deep within the history of this less meaningful wedding costume in our own culture, the veil was a way to preserve the mystery… the knowing of the one wearing it. To protect the integrity and the purity of the one wearing it.
Besides protecting the integrity and purity of the bride-to-be, it also served as a way to mark a life-changing moment whereby the man and woman join their separate lives and embark on something new. That moment, of the lifting of the veil, is when they both are able to see clearer what they are committing to. It acted as a threshold.
The same was true for Moses. If we look into this morning’s Hebrew Text, we read that he came into nearly direct contact with God and like Jesus was also transfigured. Like Jesus, in this morning’s gospel, his face was also changed and he lit up like lightning. It was so bright, the people couldn’t handle the reality of the situation when he came off the mountain. Couldn’t handle the secondary or reflection of God in Moses’ face. And, this experience, this encounter with Yahweh, sustained Moses for the work he needed to do. He came down from the mountain and was ready to follow through and to do the hard work he was called to do.
The gospel today the story is no different. Jesus, through prayer… comes into contact with God the Father… in a direct and special way and is transfigured… He begins to glow like a lightning bolt, the text says he “shines with dazzling white.”
And Peter, John and James witness it… they witness this amazing event and are present during this holy moment. The author is intent on the communicating the divinity of Jesus, son of Joseph, the carpenter.
The text says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Fascinating… Jesus has been picked by God.. Chosen… Jesus is God’s own Son. (Now, remember, this isn’t an ongoing, unfolding of historical events as they happen, this is a particular community’s reflection on the meaning and significance and importance of the divinity of Christ and of the meaning of the Resurrection!) For the author, without the divinity, Jesus’ Passion and death are meaningless. Without the divinity, Jesus is just another martyred revolutionary… another martyred prophet. And, for Luke, without the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection makes no sense.
And… the author wants to communicate, to help the hearers see that these three disciples… the big three Peter, John and James… don’t understand the significance of this event. They don’t understand that it signifies Jesus’ divinity… and didn’t have the luxury that you and I do of seeing into the future with this story. “That was awesome!” Peter says. “Let’s build places to stay here!
Maybe forever… but certainly we should remain here as long as possible.” They miss the point.
They don’t realize that this transfiguration occurs, at least partially, to sustain Jesus through the Passion…to see him all the way through, and to fulfill God’s purpose in the salvation of all of Creation.
And in the gospel, the voice declares, God the Father declares, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Again, the author is making it clear that Jesus is divine. Jesus is chosen by God. The point being, Jesus has gravitas… he has the weight to carry a message such as this… Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus is God’s messenger… and then some. Jesus is willing and worthy to carry out this Passion, this mission…
So reader, you, we, should listen to him. To Jesus the chosen Son of God…
Listen to his life story. Listen to his controversial and counter intuitive and counter cultural message and watch how he lives and died…. in order to understand more fully how he rose from that death.
This Wednesday Lent begins.
We all have a few more days to listen for the gentle nudging of God. A few more days to scramble and try to piece together a meaningful practice or discipline for a Holy Lent.
How might we prepare best for the passion… ?
How could we use our 40 days in the dessert to prepare?
How will each of us intentionally live so that we might grow closer to the Father?
Will I pick up a new prayer practice? Will I restart an old one?
Are you going to give up eating meat? or candy?
Am I going to bump up my giving to a cause that I am passionate about?
Maybe you will spend extra time with your family… Maybe this year you will, for the first time, participate in the rite of reconciliation in a formal way.
Maybe I’ll give up fishing? Not likely, but maybe.
And, maybe you just need to be gentle on yourself… maybe you need to make extra time to rest and relax and be.
But you should know… that listening to the chosen Son, means following him. That prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the rite of reconciliation… if it is authentic… if it is unveiled, leads us through the garden in Gethsemane and atop of Golgotha. Lent calls you and I to drop the veil. It calls us to be vulnerable and to reveal ourselves intimately.. It is the only way we can have authentic and whole relationship with our God and the world.
It will lead us to and through death so that you and I can rise again with Christ in THE resurrection. Transformed and transfigured… I’m praying for a Holy Lent for us both…
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”