Friendship with God through Christ
Scripture Reading: Matthew 17 1-9: The Transfiguration
2 Corinthians 5:17:
Traditionally during this season, we remember Jesus fasting 40 days in the wilderness, and many people practice giving up one or more of their earthly pleasures to represent this sacrifice Jesus made. We all have our Lenten traditions
and rituals which we are accustomed to, and different churches, different denominations may expect or require their people to do certain things. The United Church always encourages us to appreciate the many ways things are done and
because of that Church ministers and congregations may vary in how they acknowledge this time.
I think the only downfall of giving up one of our favorite things or one of our vices short-term or temporary during Lent is that it makes little if any difference to the ongoing journey of our lives. To me, Lent is not so much time a time of self denial,
or the giving up of tangible things but of giving up of something from deeper within ourselves, and if we think about it, this whole year we have all had to give up so much already! Because of Covid restrictions we have had to let go of so
many of the simple things and parts of our lives we so often took for granted and that mean so much to us, things that define who we are and the individualness of how we live. So, this year lets use this time to dig deep down in our hearts and
sweep out its dusty corners, lets look for something, just one thing, that we may not always on the surface acknowledge, something that we may tend to overlook and live with or something we have pushed so far down deep inside, we don’t even
realize how much it affects us and let’s let it go once and for all! This is not about sacrifice and deprivation, but more of freedom and transformation. Now, before you answer with something like, I’ve done that before or I’m all good, before you
tell me that you don’t have anything to change or alter, I want to tell YOU that today as you begin that long walk to the cross, that walk will be a lot more beneficial when you can truly understand that ‘there’s nothing wrong with me’ can
be a very dangerous thing to say.
So, let’s leave that for a moment and take a look at our scripture from Matthew today. We see the inner circle of the apostles on the scene of the Transfiguration, where they get to see Jesus in a new light. Up until then they had seen Him as a leader, a great preacher, a healer, and yes, a very holy person, but on that mountain, on that day, they get a glimpse of His divine majesty and glory, Jesus at his best! Also, alongside of him is the dearly departed Elijah and Moses! No wonder Peter exclaimed, ";Lord, it is good to be here!’ No wonder he wanted to stay just where he was!
Let’s think about that. How often have we been somewhere we would like to stay? Perhaps it was a great holiday with family or friends, when we have wished the good times could continue, perhaps it was a precious moment with a loved one when we wished time could have just stood still for us, but of course, it didn’t, time doesn’t stop for no man as the old saying goes. It could have even been as simple as just being tucked up in bed and reluctant to get up on a cold dark morning. We like to stay in the good places but sooner or later we have to get back to the demands of work, and the things that need to be faced in our day to day lives.
Regardless of how long or short they last, we are meant to appreciate and embrace the wonderful moments, those sometimes to fleeting of blessings that come our way. Because not only do they bring joy into our lives but they are also meant to refresh us, so that we can have the strength to move into the rigours of what may seem like harsh realities at times. Jesus knew this. He knew he must descend the mountain and he knew what lay ahead of him. His crucifixion.
This memory Jesus gave to his disciples of seeing him in glorious transfiguration was meant to sustain their faith in Him. He wanted them to take that with them, to the time when they would see him defeated, and broken. Unfortunately, that wasn’t
the case, it wasn’t long after coming back down from that mountain, that things took a turn for the worst for Jesus and in his darkest hours, Peter disowned him as well did the rest of His hand-picked followers, his closest friends.
Now interesting enough, if we skip ahead to AFTER Easter, when Jesus reappears for the disciples after the crucifixion, he does not come back perfect, or dazzling like they had seen him in his transfiguration. He did not reappear with no scars of his suffering; he comes back to them WITH his scars clearly visible for all to see. This was a very powerful statement. Four short words, No wounds no glory. You see it was BECAUSE of his wounds that he was able to be glorified. That’s not how we as humans see perfection and being glorified is it? If we want to be seen as perfect, we want to appear like we are all put together, as people with no real problems, certainly not the kind that leave our hearts broken or leave open scars for the world to see. We may even believe we ARE all put together, if we have a polished exterior, and on the most part we do succeed presenting that to
others. As a brand new minister looking out at my new congregation, I remember thinking, what can I do to help these people who all seem like they have life all figured out? They have good lives they have made for themselves; they are all dressed and groomed well, and obviously can take good care of themselves. They have belonged to this church and have admirable faith. Most everyone was older than me and more than likely much wiser! It blew me away to find out everyone has a story, everyone has a burden they carry, everyone has a piece of their heart missing, everyone hurts or has been hurt and every life can use some healing no matter who they are, no matter how beautiful or successful or well put together they may appear.
If we want to model ourselves after perfect people, if we think we want to be one of them or be like them, let me tell you, Jesus wasn’t even one of those. Jesus was broken and God wanted us to see and be aware of the wounds Jesus carried with
him so we could be aware of our own. Not hide than from others and certainly not try to hide or bury them from ourselves. Just like Jesus, our wounds, can be like portals to the divine. Flaws, human weakness, heartache and scars are a part of our
human story. Lent is about using the strength gathered from our wonderful moments to recognize, acknowledge and transform these wounds, to truly, once and for all heal, to let go of what holds us back, to rise from the ashes and be better than we ever have been before! Because we deserve it! God wants that for us!
We heard 2 Corinthians 5:17 today which says,
Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation.
The old way of living has disappeared.
A new way of living has come into existence.
In the poem we heard it says Lent is a time to ponder and a time to wonder….to feel the healing surge through us,
and yes, it is true, when it says that perhaps we’re afraid to think about certain things, and yes, it can be frightening,
to take up our wounds and walk.
We may think we are beyond or above changing or growing in spirit. We may think that at our age, we are who we are, we are as good or faithful as we are going to get, but in reality it takes a lot of living, a lot of living to finally discover that it is our own things we carry that enslave us, not anyone else’s and we are not finished doing the work. If we are still alive there’s more to do.
So, this year I am going to ask TWO things of you. I say two things because this year has been a very different year for all of us. We are going to do a bit of both the traditional letting go and the new holding on. You will do these two parts separately and give them each a lot of thought…. over the course of the next few weeks leading up to Good Friday.
Part one… I want you to think of letting go of a brokenness or wound that’s inside of you, that’s become a part of you. It could recent or from a long way back…it may be an anger towards someone, a resentment, a grudge, an attitude towards
something, a sadness, a regret, a loss, a habit that you know does not serve you well, whatever it is will be unique and different for each one of you. This is not a time to wallow in our sorrows although lamenting can be a real part of lent, this is
to be more about a journey towards wholeness and wellness.
Part two is about holding on to something. I want you to reflect on what you will be holding on to and appreciating more than ever when this COVID-19 and lockdowns are all behind us. What is the thing that’s value will have increased for you because of this time?
Now the answers of these questions may pop up quickly and easily for you or you may have to think a lot about them, that’s why we have these weeks of Lent ahead of us. When you come up with something, write your answers both down on a
piece of paper and by the end of Lent you will commit yourself to following through in your letting go, and you’re holding on. This is a process that if you really put some thought into it, you WILL come out of Lent better than you went in. Perhaps you will have a different mindset, perhaps a lighter heart, or a healthier spirit than in which you started. Am I asking you to do some work, yes, I am but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. That is what these transitional times like Advent and Lent are for. We are a resurrection church, we are about new days, new birth, transfiguration, transformation and metamorphosis. But, its up to you to initiate
these changes, and to be open to growth in your faith journey. It would be nice if you would share with me what you come up with, but then again it may be something private that you would like to keep between you and God and that’s perfectly understandable. I will send out a little page with a simple outline that you can print off and write on if you wish. I pray and hope that you will let this time of Lent make a true difference to you, and in doing so, more joy, peace of mind, love and health with come your way.
All Glory be to God!