Hope you are all safe and warm at home with no intention of going any farther than your yard today.
This is Transfiguration Sunday … fitting for today when I looked outside first thing this morning and all I could see what white. The world around me had been transfigured.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk once wrote:
“Life is simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget about ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God shows Himself everywhere, in everything - in people and in things and in nature and in events. It becomes
very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him. Itʼs impossible. The only thing is that we donʼt see it.”
I agree that we don’t see it often, (we’re way too busy), but then there are those times when we do. And the scripture passage for Transfiguration Sunday tells of one of those times. Jack is going to read it to us this morning.
Mark 9:2-9 The Transﬁguration
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led
them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transﬁgured
before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on
earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses,
who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ʻRabbi, it is good for
us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and
one for Elijah.ʼ He did not know what to say, for they were terriﬁed. Then a
cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ʻThis is
my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!ʼ Suddenly when they looked around,
they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Pastor Susan: I recently read an article in The Sierra Club magazine entitled “The Science of AWE.” I knew I would use it in a sermon someday, and after all that is happening weather wise right now, I knew today was the day. It’s written by Jake Abrahamson, and I want to share just the beginning of what he has to say with you.
“A few weeks ago, I ran Utah’s Green river with a group of 13-year-olds. Our first day was a grueling, 26 mile slog through mostly flat water, with a few Class I and II rapids as our prize. I knew the real reward would come when we entered the most majestic part of Desolation Canyon in a couple of days, but they wouldn’t take my word for it. They were slouched in their boats asking, “Why are we doing this?”
That evening a thunderstorm rolled into the river valley, and we spent an hour in our tents. It was one of the most intense and otherworldly storms I’ve seen. When thunder struck, it felt like my body was inside God’s clap, and the lightening galvanized the entire sky. Eventually the sky cleared. I stepped out of my tent as if exiting a bomb shelter, with a distinct feeling that the world would be different.
The kids seemed to emerge from their tents at the exact same instant. The air was heavy and hot, the sky a color I had never imagined - gold from the land to the firmament. Time slowed. The mountains, the people, and the river flowing through it all seemed held together by an intelligent pattern.
The frustration of the day’s paddle was wiped away. I felt benevolent and open toward the kids. Making dinner was easy. The storm had pulled us together.
Looking back, I was puzzled by the experience. What had happened during the thunderstorm? I know humans don’t move in unison accidentally, so why did I think we’d emerged from our tents in perfect sync? I’m not a spiritual person, or a gushy one, so what caused this quasi-religious feeling that the mountains, people, and river were hanging together in ethereal balance?”
He goes on to say that science would explain this as a ‘state of awe’. They’ve finally caught up with religious and spiritual types, who have been calling it that for thousands of years. The sermon I was originally going to preach this Sunday was called “Thin Places” - those experience we have, of whatever sort, that brings us somehow into the presence of God - when that thin curtain is parted momentarily and we glimpse something beautiful, enchanting, sacred, beyond. The disciples experienced a thin place, a state of awe on that mountain top. Abrahamson was experiencing one too. So often they happen in nature.
He explained that in the wake of those experiences scientists say “people act more generously and ethically … and often feel a deeper connection to others and the world in general. Awe prompts people to redirect concern away from the self and toward everything else.”
The power of nature, as we’re seeing right now, is an awesome sight. Watching the seemingly never ending flurry of snow outside my windows this past week, those six foot ice sickles hanging off buildings, and then those intense blue skies after the storm and the radiant sun reflecting off the snow can fill one with a bit of awe. As a newscaster said this week: This weather brings out the worst and the best in people, and I’ve witnessed more of the best. It warms my heart on these cold days to see members of Eliot coming together to reach out and help each other in so many ways. The storms are somehow pulling us together.
So often it’s the difficult times that bring people together in community. When people heard of Tony and Karen losing their home, and everything in it, the first question was “How can we help?” When the S. family were snow bound, needing to get Rich to his medical appointments, others marched over shovels in hand. Being there, through good times and bad, that’s what being church is all about. It’s where we see God in each other, and where we see God working in our lives and through our actions.
As I look out at all this snow today, I hear God saying, “SLOW DOWN!” Take advantage of that. Spend time today having a real Sabbath. Turn off the computer. Stop reading emails. Spend time with family and friends. Quiet your mind and spend some time with God. Sit in front of the window and marvel in AWE at the beauty outside. It too is God’s gift to us.
PRAYER TIME - Pastor Reebee
BENEDICTION “Cold Water, Hot Coffee” by Ann Weems
Sometimes that cup of cold water,
turns out to be a cup of hot coffee,
and what we’re asked to do is
to pour it … and to listen.
Sometimes we Christians
in our enthusiasm
think we were asked
to save the world,
when what we were asked to do
is to go into it
and tell God’s story
to people in need of
some good news.
Anxious activists forget
that just listening is an act
Driven disciples forget
that just listening is an act
Guilty givers forget
that just listening is an act
Since we church people
have a tendency to be
driven and anxious and guilt-ridden,
perhaps we should
read the directions again
and pour a cup of hot coffee
in His name.
So today I invite you to pour that cup of hot coffee, or tea, or chocolate, and spend some time listening. And when the snow stops and the roads are cleared, see who you can reach out to and lend a helping hand.