Monday, February 27, 2017

Glory Will Not Save Us

Transfiguration Sunday
Matthew 17: 1-9
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield UMC
February 29, 2017

We often will read and talk about that thin veil that separates this world from the next. The visitors that we have in our gardens to help us re connect with a lost loved one. A cardinal, an eagle, a hawk, a butterfly, a lady bug...

While we are all very rational people, there are moments when the next world seems so close.
A beautiful sunset, a glorious clear starry night, the feel of gentle breezes on a summer evening that cut through the deep humidity of a summer day, the sound of a child’s laughter, a grandmother’s singing.

While we live in a very real and harsh world there are times when we are transported to the future hope of the eternal.
A kind word, a transcendent act of bravery, a smile from an enemy, a message of love that you never thought you would receive, a message of love that is so common it always seems a miracle,

The thin veil is breached. For but a moment. Our lives are transformed, transfigured into what we long for, for that almost but not yet reality of a future with hope.

This is how I see the transfiguration. The veil is breached for a moment. The son of God radiates from within the Human One. Or vise versa.
John Wesley pictured it this way:
"The indwelling Deity darted out its rays through the veil of the flesh; and that with such transcendent splendour, that he no longer bore the form of a servant. His face shone with Divine majesty, like the sun in its strength; and all his body was so irradiated by it, that his clothes could not conceal its glory, but became white and glittering as the very light, with which he covered himself as with a garment."[1]

Darted out. I love that. God darting out from the human form of Jesus. So that he shone with Divine majesty.

It didn’t last long, this transformation.
This holy essence of God emanating from the humanity of Jesus.

Now here’s the thing. I don’t think Jesus sought out this glory. I think he was probably just going up to the mountain to pray. Because he did that. Pretty often.
But Moses and Elijah must have been hanging out close to that mountain too. And they couldn’t keep themselves from stopping in for a visit. And of course, when Moses, Elijah and Jesus walk into a place you are going to get some glory.
Here is Jesus who is living as a human being, not looking for glory at all.
Born in a stable. Raised by peasants. No home. No pillow on which to lay his head. No fine clothes.
Surrounded by glory. It must have been like a homecoming.
Even God got into the party: reminding the gathering that God’s son was standing there in the midst of the great prophets of Israel.

The disciples knew, they knew that as much as Jesus wanted to keep his glory shielded. They knew if was there, just below the surface.
They knew that the veil between the already but not yet was just ready to be broken open.

But Jesus wasn’t ready for this. While it must have felt good to feel the power of God radiating from his being. Jesus knew.
This wasn’t what we needed.

We would like a glorious God right here on earth with us. With gold, and glitter, and power and status.
We try to create this god all the time.

We watch the award shows to see our little movie and music star gods shine. We want them to be on our side. Speak words through their art that will change the world. We want them to show us how to look all glorified and beautiful. 

We idolize sports players; hoping that their lives will reflect what it means to be great and glorious and talented. We want them to show us how to act formidable and successful and strong.

We love to peak inside the great palaces and state houses, to see how the gold glistens and the potential of wealth might feel like. We want them to show us how to join them in the promise of wealth and power.

But these gods don’t save us.
As a matter of fact, these gods enslave us.
Our admirations of them make us hate our lives.
Our following of them makes us discontent with who we are.
Our desire to be like them makes us forget who it is we are created to be.

These gods don’t save us. They enslave us.

So Jesus was probably both glad and sad when his disciples broke the spell with their own brand of adoration.

Because this isn’t the savior the world needed. And Jesus primary job was to show the world how to be saved.
From our own brand of self absorption and narrow-mindedness and rags to riches glory stories.

Jesus came to save us from our own brand of rags to riches glory stories.
Jesus came to save us from the American dream.
Jesus came to save us from death.

You know we always try to make Jesus story about glory, don’t we?
We always want the end, the resurrection to be glorious.

But it wasn’t, not really.
No light shone out of a tomb.
No great change occurred that earned Jesus any awards or fame.
No huge parades were thrown to celebrate his victory over death.

There was no glory for Jesus even then.
Just an intimate garden visit with Mary.
Just a chance meeting along a road to Emmaus and a shared meal of simple bread.
Just a quiet meeting with his disciples grilling fish alongside the sea.

Resurrection from the dead should have been met with glory, don’t you think.

But glory isn’t what saves us.
Glory is what enslaved us.

So, even in his most victorious of moments Jesus laid aside the glory of the godhead and rose as a scarred and vulnerable human being who needed others to carry on the work he had begun.
Because it isn’t the glorious ones who really change the world.
It isn’t the ones surrounded with gold and riches who really change the world.
It isn’t the ones who receive the trophies and awards who change the world.

It is those who continue to believe that death is conquered. That fear is no longer an option. That wake up every morning with a desire the change the world; at least their own little corner of the world.
These are the ones who change the world. Not for glory but for Love. The Love that comes to us through the Savior of the world who shunned his glory to show us how to live, die and overcome our fear of death.



[1] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.i.ii.xix.html

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