The Long Journey… Please join me in the Spirit of prayer. Eternal Presence, help us see as you see. Help us see the beauty within your world and the beauty within our sisters and brothers. Help us look beyond the surface; beyond what the world glorifies. As we journey with you to the top of those mountains and into the lowest valleys, across the raging rivers and the deep divides, remind us this journey through life is worth it. It’s all worth it for we follow Jesus. Amen As I began writing this message, snow was falling. The world outside was slowly covered in a fluffy blanket. It was mesmerizing to watch the delicate flakes of snow falling from the sky, to see them shimmering and swirling. To view the outside world as it was transfigured into a wintry wonderland. I wanted to stay in that space. I wanted to stay inside my warm safe home; snuggled in a comfortable blanket with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand watching the snow fall. I wanted to stay in that space of silence and serenity while the world outside was transformed. But the snow turned to icy sleet and then to rain. The beauty dissipated and was replaced by slushy ice and puddles of water. A plow arrived to clear my parking lot. Noise invaded the peaceful quietness and I was jarred back to reality—to the reality of life.
On this Transfiguration Sunday, we hear how Jesus went up a high mountain with his friends, Peter, James, and John. The went by themselves, apart from the crowds. Suddenly Jesus was transfigured. His clothes began to dazzle. I imagine a glorious light shining. Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter suggested they make three dwellings. We hear he was terrified. Perhaps he was also confused. Yet he seems to have wanted to stay there with this transfigured Jesus, with Elijah, with Moses. To stay in a space which may have felt safe—in presence of his Teacher and two of the “heroes” of Jewish Scripture, Moses and Elijah. But then a cloud overshadowed them and the voice of God was heard. The voice of God spoke these words: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him….” The moment was over. Jesus, Peter, James and John went down the mountainside—back to life, back to their journey… Can you recall a mountaintop experience in your life? A time when the world around you was transfigured so that all was suddenly crystal clear or stunningly beautiful? Perhaps a time when you caught a glimpse of the glory of God; when your entire being knew that you were in the presence of the Divine One. Perhaps you heard the voice of our Creator—the voice of Jesus—the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking directly to your soul. Like Peter on that mountaintop, like me on that snowy morning, we often want to remain in those moments or spaces of serenity. We want to stay and rest in the glory of God. To remain where we feel protected and sheltered, where we feel totally and thoroughly loved. We want to set up dwellings and remain in those spaces—in those moments. Yet we are called to come back. To continue the journey. In this passage Elijah and Moses disappeared. Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain top for there was more to do, there was more to come. Jesus and his Disciples came down from that mountain top experience to continue the journey. The journey which would lead to Jerusalem and the Upper Room…to the Garden and to Calvary…to the Cross. The journey which would offer times of joy and fellowship, struggles and sorrows, chaos and confusion. Jesus knew there could be no shortcuts—that they could not remain in that space on that mountaintop. Jesus knew he had to continue the journey. Our first reading this morning reveals Elisha also continuing the journey, staying the course, taking the long road. Elisha went with Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho and to the Jordan knowing all the way that Elijah was going to be taken away. He was given permission to stay where he was not once but three times. Still Elisha kept going. Keeping his promise to never leave, staying the course, trusting in the journey, trusting in God. Life’s journey isn’t easy—especially when we follow Jesus. Living a life of faith requires obedience, it requires trust, it requires change and transformation which can be so uncomfortable. Following Jesus requires taking the long way—the way which has those ups and downs, the way which asks us to go deeper in our spiritual life. Sometimes we need to live in spaces of mystery where answers are not clear—uncomfortable. Sometimes we need to be willing to examine old beliefs, which we may resist. Sometimes we are called to adapt to new ways and other times to stand firm in our traditions. How do we know the difference? We pause, we listen to God. Ideally we do together, in community. We try to figure out where God is calling us right now, for this time and place. Living a life of faith means sharing our stories with new generations and then allowing room for their stories to unfold It means passing the leadership like Elijah did to Elisha. It means doing our best to see the world through the eyes of God. All the while listening to Jesus as we continue the journey. When we follow Jesus, we don’t get to skip ahead. Jesus didn’t skip ahead. When we follow Jesus we don’t get to take the easy way. Jesus didn’t take the easy way. Rather we travel where life leads us. We try our best to see God’s beauty even when life is difficult, to see the shining souls of those we journey with, to find joy in the midst of confusion. The road is curvy. It has twists and dead ends but it also has joys and laughter and blessings. For the road we travel, when we follow Jesus, allows us to see more of God’s beautiful creation, to meet new people who help to mold and shape us in unexpected ways. If we take the short cut, if we try to stay in those safe, secure spaces, we miss out on some amazing blessings and incredible experiences. If we try to stay on that mountain top or in our comfortable homes where there are warm fluffy blankets and steaming cups of coffee, we may miss out on an encounter with God—God who comes to us in many spaces and through many people. I saw God this week while listening to a 2nd grader read at an elementary school, while anointing foreheads at a nursing home and reminding folks they are called beloved, during a time of sharing a meal and conversation with a new friend, during a time with my family. Where di you see God this week? The Transfiguration of Jesus reveals the glory of God, offers a space of pause. And then the journey continues—as we follow Jesus, as we listen to God’s Beloved Son.
We’re about to enter the season of Lent—a time of reflecting, remembering, repenting, and returning. May we enter this season together with open hearts and open minds. May we be humbled by the story of the One who kept going, who faced all of life’s challenges, who understands our hopes and our fears, who know us intimately and loves us deeply. May we journey together with Jesus today and every day. May it be so….