We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Feb. 11, 2024, Last Epiphany – “…He was transfigured. He became fully the person he was created to be.”

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A few minutes ago Catherine and I were standing outside and we were talking about preaching on the transfiguration Sunday and  neither one of us could remember anything we’d ever preached before! 

I just remembered a Transfiguration sermon. What I talked about was the fact that they were having this discussion about building tents there so they could stay on the  Mountaintop and the thrust of the sermon was you can never stay there. You have these experiences and then life moves on. That’s actually that’s relevant for today because the theme is about life moving on. It’s changing all the time. None of us here are the same people we were last year, the year before,  20 years ago for some of us. 

The point though is that we’re not the people we used to be. We are different people not necessarily better or worse.

I want to give you a quote from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 3:18. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

So what he is saying there is that the whole experience of change is a part of life because we don’t want to be stuck in one place and be  that person. I don’t want to be the person  when I was five or 10 years ago .  I’m happy with life as it as it’s coming along each day now. The idea of being stuck in one place of course is I guess that’s what death is you.

The whole idea is that in Christ we’re always becoming called to things as they were not before becoming a new person. 

If you’ve been to Israel, you’ve seen that what happened with Jesus on the holy mount was a remarkable thing that we call the Transfiguration. Transfiguration just means that something looks different, it’s experienced differently, something is seen differently by you. You’re seen differently by others that’s a  kind of transfiguration. This one  was remarkable because it is beyond anything that could be described because this was the fulfillment God’s prophecy about the one who was to come.

There is another little quote I want to give you  from Deuteronomy which is now this about a thousand years before the event of the Transfiguration of which we just read on the Holy Mountain and in Deuteronomy Yahweh is saying I will raise up for you a prophet from you, from among the Brethren and I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

In other words so a thousand years before this event God had said in this prophecy that he will raise up a  magnificent Prophet who will be his fulfillment of all that has gone before and that is exactly what we just read about precisely what God did on the Holy Mountain.

There were the other two people  who were invited. Moses and Elijah. Now, they were invited because Moses is the symbol of the law. He was the one who brought the law down from the Mountaintop and so Jesus is meeting there with him and also Elijah. Elijah is there because he was seen as the symbol of the prophets who spoke of what God’s expectations for humanity for the world were and how we might want to live. So those two people representing the law and the prophets are there on this mountain top with Jesus. They appear together and then they are gone. Those who Peter and John and James heard God say, “this is my beloved listen to him” meaning the power of the law is still there but it doesn’t have authority over us. The power of the prophets will always be true but it doesn’t speak to us- listen to Jesus.

Years ago I had a book it was called More Jesus, Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship. I think that’s exactly what this story is about – less religion less law, less prophecy and More Jesus because if you want to have a life that’s changed it’s not going to come from any other way than the spiritual power that comes from being in relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the thing that gives us life. That’s the thing that changes us in a way that that will lead to happiness and joy and fulfillment in this world. To be changed in any other  direction is going to leave you short changed. Life can be so much if we are fulfilling God’s purposes for us and if we or not, we might say we’re happy we might feel fulfilled but you’re not going to be in the fullest sense that is possible for you because we’re not following the teachings of Our Lord. We’re not seeking the power and presence of Christ.

What happened to him on that day he was transfigured he became fully the person he was created to be. Now I don’t know about you but I know that I look back over my life, I’ve had little experiences from time to time which I can say were profound where I had that experience of the presence of Christ and having had that experience of love. I know that I’ll never be the same person again. I’m not that person anymore.

You’ve probably had an experience like that in your life from time to time and we hang on to them because the reason that’s important is when we are fully in the kingdom of God, that’s when we’re going to have to talk with Jesus.

“Lord you remember” when you know whatever it was that happened and, of course, he will and we have that conversation but we have that conversation because we have opened ourselves in this life to the power and presence of the transfigured Christ the  one who is the Fulfillment of all God’s promises, the fulfillment of the of the prophets and of the law. Anything else is less than  Jesus is.

I emphasize this so much because we’re all in a process of growing. The way we change makes  all the difference in the way we experience life. If the way we’re changing is in a way that is in  accordance with Christ’s love then, hot dog, you know your life is going to take off like you never expected. But as I said before  anything else is less than that, so don’t settle  for anything other than what you’re called to be.

As we look back which  is of course wasted energy  It’s like the old story of this little woman who had died and was in heaven and  she was talking to the Lord and she said “Lord do you remember when I was back on Earth what was the my worst sin, what was the worst thing I ever did?” Jesus thought about it for a minute and he said “you know I just don’t remember.” I just don’t remember because we  all live in that forgiveness that is the love of Christ, that doesn’t look back only looks forward. IR looks at us right now as we move on into the future. So let’s live that way because it is the way to understand the meaning of our own life.

This little piece of scripture the Transfiguration says he became white as snow. He became brilliant. it reminds me of that one little kid Thomas. When the king saw him out on the battle lines, he said Thomas what are you doing ? He said I believe in this cause. I believe in fighting for the for the crown,  the round table, for justice and peace. The King said to Thomas you must run as fast as you can to the rear of the lines because here was one person who got it who understood what Camelot was about.

It was about truth about Justice about love so forth all those admirable things and it was “One Brief Shining Moment.” I tell you that that sounds so much to me like the Transfiguration of Christ. For “One Brief Shining Moment” there was the power of God manifested in a human being for  others around to see. It was like a bright light that that you had to close your eyes. It was so bright. I’d like to think that at some point in my life I’d like to see a light that bright. I’m pretty sure we will. I’m pretty sure we will because that’s the calling we’re following.

If you follow Christ, the most magnificent things are going to happen to you. Well there’ll be some scary things along the  way but that’s not the point. The point is that your heart will be glad and you will be filled with hope and  wonder of the mystery of life and the power of God. Doesn’t that just sound great? Well, that’s the promise because if we become transfigured from that person I used to be that sometimes I’m not very proud of this person that God has created me, you to be, that’s the experience that lies before us.

I want to read that Second Corinthians. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Well, that’s my hope and my plan and my dream for all of us here -that we’re going to be changed from glory to glory until that one day when the things that we see here which are not eternal which are passing away have passed away and we only know experience the eternal. We don’t know what that’s going to be like yet but every now and then we get a flash of light every now and then we get a glimpse of it and we can know that that promise is true and that is the good news of the Gospel this day.