"Making Change"

Matthew 17:1-9

2 March 2014 - Transfiguration of the Lord

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester and West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Prayer.

 

Maya Angelou said,

“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult,

but not more difficult than remaining in a situation

which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”

In other words,

change is hard;

status quo is harder.

 

The prospect of change initiates a primal flood of neurochemicals

that can lead to anxiety,

panic even,

that feels like standing on the precipice of spinning out of control.

We ask ourselves

“What if?”

“Should I, or shouldn’t I?”

We wake in sweat and chills,

our mind racing us into exhaustion

that chases away sleep.

We fear the prospect of an uncertain future

even as we consider leaving behind the safety of a well known past.

Confident people know they can adapt accordingly,

at least that’s what they say.

The problem is, not one of us are that confident.

Change implies

shifting trust and belief from ourselves

to trusting and belief beyond ourselves;

trusting and belief in God.

 

Over the past seven weeks

we have journeyed with Jesus

from Baptism to Beatitudes,

from life in Galilee calling disciples

to teaching the masses on the mountain top

about what life can look like

when lived according to God will.

 

We began with a theophany,

an appearance of God,

at Christ’s Baptism with the words

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”

and it ends with a second appearance of God

making an identical proclamation

in our Gospel for today.

The bookends of this time after the Epiphany

feel like one chapter in Jesus’ life is complete

and another is yet to unfold.

Today, intuition is spot on.

 

There comes a point in each of our lives

- a tipping point -

where the necessity of change becomes easier

than staying the course,

going through the same predictable routine.

Life, for Jesus,

was played out in Galilee,

kind of like a graduate walking across the stage with diploma in hand.

The stability of family and adoring crowds was coming to an end,

kind of like a career working at Kodak.

Words of Good News had all been spoken.

The benediction had been pronounced.

It was time to chart a new course and hoist the jib.

It is time to remove safety of a long term contract and a house in the suburbs.

In the flash of a light

and with His Heavenly Father’s blessing,

Jesus pivots and faces Jerusalem,

the cross,

and the tomb.

 

Would his new disciples follow?

 

Peter sees Jesus with Moses and Elijah and stammers,

“Lord it is good for us to be here;

if you wish, I will make three dwellings here,

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He is saying, “let’s build a building here, one for each of you.”

Buildings would cement them to the location,

protect them from the Jews and Romans,

AND, it would establish Jesus as a peer

with the great law giver, Moses,

and with the great prophet, Elijah.

 

Buildings are the epitome of stability;

a frozen-in-time metaphor for maintaining the status quo.

At the same time

buildings can become a tomb stone;

marking the spot where there was once vitality

but where there is now only dust.

 

It is my opinion that many of us Christians are delusional.

We are prepared to ride this old pony into its grave

if only it gets us to the end of our life

gets us a “Get Out of Jail Free” card

and earns us a ticket to heaven.  

The same old status quo model of faith

was to work hard,

play hard,

and go to Sunday school and church on Sundays.

Confess what we shouldn’t have done the other six and a half days,

get a warm fuzzy spiritual shot of heroin,

and walk out the door,

satisfied we’ve paid our dues

and can return to the safety of our bedrooms, kitchens, and hot tubs.

 

I would suggest

on top of the mountain today

Jesus turns his back

on the church growth movement,

the pastor centric church culture,

denominational quagmires,

and the “do as I say and not what I do” hypocrisy of lukewarm disciples.

As soon as Jesus takes the first step

towards Jerusalem,

he shatters all delusions

that God is unchanging and indifferent.

With divine blessing

Jesus walks the walk that leads him to his Passion.

 

Actions speak louder than words.

It would be one thing for God to declare a universal amnesty from sin;

it’s quite another thing to crawl up on a cross and allow yourself to be crucified

for the sins of others.

Actions speak louder than words.

It would be one thing for God to proclaim salvation to the adoring masses;

it’s quite another thing to step forth from a tomb after three days in hell

so that you and I might live again.

 

Communities of faith everywhere are near the tipping point.

Go with Jesus,

or remain behind to live out life

… and die on the vine in Galilee.

 

The voice of God represents change.

 

Like Peter, our vision for the future is limited by our experience

and our desire to maintain the status quo.

Yet, we hear the voice of God today through our scripture.

God has a new direction and larger plans for us

collectively and as individuals.

God has a never ending desire for us to make the right choices,

to live faithfully,

to become the personification of his will.

The time for talking is ended;

the time for action has begun.

We are talking about kingdom building here.

God has plans to build out and complete the other six and a half days of our week.

God has hopes and dreams for our future

that begin with our walking the walk

as soon as we walk out these doors.

 

God has plans.

 

None of us can know the completeness of God’s plan for our lives,

or, for the future of our jobs, our families, or our church.

But God reveals snippets to us all the time.

Different people have different insights, perspectives, experience and history;

each, however,

are Divinely seeded and nurtured.

God moves and weaves lives together for a purpose.

God influences our thoughts and dreams.

God whispers in our ear.

God opens our heart to the influence of others.

A seat on the train headed to Jerusalem

has been prepared just for us.

 

This is not to be feared.

 

God's participation in your life and mine

is to be recognized, embraced, and celebrated.

It does take an act of faith to pocket our fears.

We don’t know where God might be leading us.

At the same time, we know from experience

that God has always been faithful;

so why shouldn't we be faithful to Him?

 

Do not worry.

Do not fear the change that is from God.

God will reveal.

God will abide.

God will always be faithful.

Let us say, “Yes Lord.”

It’s time to make change.

Amen.