This is the sermon I wrote and preached this week, Sunday, March 3. It is Transfiguration Sunday. The texted used: Luke 9:28-36, And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. I wanted to post because it is historically timely and it was a snowy Sunday so if you missed worship, here it is! :)
This story is a moment in Jesus’ journey that is vital. It is the moment for which he is known.
It’s one of the most important stories of our faith tradition and a moment that is often overlooked. The mystery, is just too hard to explain. So why tell the story? It is the mystery, that I have been so drawn to, for me it is where the faith lies. Most of the time, pastors will spend this specific Sunday and week focusing on Mardi Gras or preparing for Lent and Ash Wednesday. It is a big week for Christians.
What this story does well is create a really good drama for youth. Who will be Jesus? Who will be his posse that follows him up the mountain? Who will be his heros, Moses and Elijah? Who will be Peter? Peter has a big part. Who will be the dwellings? If you had a big youth group, the kids could create three human dwellings. Who will be God? Who will take a white sheet and hover over the mountain, over Jesus and create an impressive voice that says: “This is my Son, my chosen, Listen to him!”
It is not by accident that this story, mardi gras and Ash Wednesday all come at the same time. It is about the veil that we all put on. All of us wear it. And, it is about taking off that veil so that we are all known. The apostle Paul said: “but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” The thing is, Jesus went up that mountain. Peter, John and James were probably delighted to go hiking. Especially with Jesus. Yah! We will go. The nature will do us good. The beauty of the earth will feed our souls. That day, probably felt like an everyday activity. Like putting on your hiking boots, grabbing the dog and driving through the starbucks on the way to the trail head. They should have known better. These mountain top experiences for religious life and religious figures have long been sacred territory. Places where important things happened to important people. For Moses it was always the mountain. On this day, for Jesus and for his friends and for his heros and for God his parent, the veil was finally removed. He was known.
Mardi Gras is a party to feast and wear costumes. Costumes that both provide a sense of equity between all of us (nobody can see our differences with the masks and costumes on) though when we arrive at Ash Wednesday the next day, we are invited to take off those masks, take down the veil, come off the mountain, follow the call toward the Lord.
This Transfiguration story is about faith. It is about freedom and it is about Christian practice. Faith in God’s call. Freedom to recognize your God-self and then to practice. This story is about the TRANS Jesus.
In geometry there are four types of TRANSformations. TRANSformation is away to change the position of a figure. But, not change the figure. The first transformation is rotation: rotating the person without changing the size or shape. For example the person’s perspective might be TRANSformed. (turn around)
The physical person does not change, just the heart, mind and soul. I use the word person instead of figure in my illustration.
The second is translation: meaning, moving a person without changing its size, shape or orientation. A person’s context and exposure to diversity, can TRANSform their ideas. The physical person does not change, just the heart, mind and soul.
The third is dilation: expanding or tracing a person without changing it shape or orientation, meaning the person's heart, mind and soul have become flexible, malleable and free. This is TRANSforming.
And reflection: flipping an object across a line without changing its size and shape.
It looks to me, the TRANSfiguration of Jesus or another is the lasting and irreversible change at the root of the figure or I mean, person. It is not merely external alterations or tweaking of appearance, This TRANSfiguration is about Jesus’ transformation of faith, freedom to be who he was called to be and then to walk down that mountain and practice.
I have been thinking of this idea of the prefix: trans, meaning above, beyond, different. To TRANSfer something to another place, to TRANSfigure into something else. Some people are TRANSgender, to outwardly identify in another way they had not before. And then today is TRANSfiguration, a day when Jesus is TRANSfered- TRANSferred his heart, TRANSferred his mind, TRANSferred his soul. Because it was the moment that he was at the top of the mountain, the top of the mountain, a theophanic location. A place known for ritualistic moments. Mountains are something of sacredness. Maybe the TRANSfiguration of Jesus happened on a mountain because the mountain is a strong and solid, a foundation needs to be a strong and solid because the people upon it, the thing that is being transed are about to change and they need the thing that they are standing on to be solid ground. They probably also need that thing to be close to heaven. That is what the mountain provides.
Have you ever be transed? Have you ever been transferred, transfigured. Perhaps you are transed-religious. You have come to this place from another religious institution because your mind and heart and soul has transitioned into another understanding of what Christianity is? The transition is who you are called to be. Is is your holy and sacred place. Or maybe you have transferred from one town to another? Because the town was not meeting the needs of your heart, soul and mind. It did not provide the community you were looking for. A community that allowed you to be the authentic and vulnerable and fully human. Perhaps, you transitioned out-wardly, you were always the person you knew yourself to be on the inside but did not feel safe. Some of you transitioned from identifying as cist gender to gender fluidity, you transfered into the fully human person you had always been but did not feel safe enough to be out. Perhaps you simply transformed your despair and suffering in the world into love and light.
To be transed is take off the veil. To remove it. To turn towards the Lord. To finally be who you were meant to be.
This week in our news were many things. Many things about our United Methodist family in Christ, the denomination made a huge decision to not TRANSition into the global church of open and affirming, LGBTQ children of God. They decided that the mountain was too much. So we stand with them on their journey and say, that is okay, you are not ready. You are not on the mountain top yet, it feels too unstable under your feet. We will hold space for you until you are on that mountain. We will pray.
At that same time as this was happening- five TRANSgender soldiers fought for their rights. For the first time, openly transgender troops gave testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Amid transgender military ban, they spoke of their career successes, advances for LGBTQ troops, and how they would be affected if the ban is enforced.
Alivia sits with us here today to witness to her story, she was one of those five soldiers… Because she TRANSitioned. She is now living authentically and vulnerably exactly who God and Jesus has called her to be. Jesus knows what it is like to TRANSition, Alivia. Jesus knows what it is like to TRANsfigure. Jesus knows what it is like to travel up the mountain, be on that mountain, be with his people, to here his divine voice calling him and saying. The time has come you must be who you are meant to be.
The moment that Jesus came down that mountain after his TRANSfiguration, he began to spend days and weeks walking into the fullness of his call and his life. He was not the same. He had been transformed and that was really hard for people.
I watched the hearing to the House Committee. I watched the five transgender soldiers sit before and give their testimonies. All of them brilliant. All of them skilled. All of them claiming a faith, freedom and a practice to just and right relationships.
Like those five soldiers, it also took Jesus more talent, courage and willingness to put forth a resurrection story (and I am paraphrasing words from the hearing ) “that is appropriate, necessary, normal and just with clarity and conviction.” Most of all like those soldiers it took extraordinary courage. This extraordinary courage was an invitation to invite us to extraordinary courage.
This story is about faith. It is about freedom and it is about Christian practice. Faith in God’s call to each of us. Freedom to recognize your God-self and then to practice. This story is about the TRANS Jesus. This story is about the TRANSyou. You don’t have to be heroic as Jesus or the soldiers that spoke this week. It might be as simple as rotating your position or dilating your lens. Wherever you are on your journey the transfiguration is for you too.
God bless you on your journey.