And he was transfigured before them…

A sermon by The Rev. Mary Goshert

Last Sunday in Epiphany,  Cycle A   10 February 2002


Somewhere in your life haven't you known someone who was truly holy?

Someone whose life has touched yours and left something of the

Shekinah -- the radiant light and glory -- of God shining on you?


I have known three such people.

To be in the presence of those persons is to be warmed,

for they are alight with the glory of God.

Each of them is truly human -- yet each of them has been transfigured,

And, in a process that can be seen and touched, and known,

They are in the process of becoming fulfilled

as the wonderful creation of God that they were

always intended by God to be.


When they are intensely at prayer, they are so intimately in touch with God

that there literally  is heat around them.

You can feel it shimmering off them when you stand anywhere near them.

And something of that shine stays with those three

in everything else they do and say, everywhere else that they are:

whether they are in line at the grocery store

or sharing potluck at the church supper

or exchanging a joke and wondering how the Dodgers and the Angels

are going to shape up next summer;

or absently giving a child a sunlit smile

that makes that kid go on its way

feeling as though some special luminous shine

has permeated into its center of being

and opened up a wellspring of bliss.


There is something, too, of frightening truth about each of these three.

They seem to see through the tangles

of rationalizations and outright lies and evasions of truth

that too many of us use too frequently.

When they are present, people weigh their words more carefully

and perhaps choose to put back into silence their harsh judgments,

rash overgeneralizations, their cheap shots at the expense of another.


Each of these persons is soft-spoken and listens rather more than they speak.

But when they speak

[it is like that stockmarket ad of several years ago  -- everything gets very, very quiet --

and action stops, when they speak.] 

When they speak, people around them tune their attention,

for you can be sure that what they have to say has some special wisdom contained in it.

I know that each of these people has known real suffering.

One of them was a local California boy, a Nisei kid born in Chino in Southern California

just about 85 years ago in February.

At the cost of great family sacrifice, he studied to become a scholar,

 and  taught both in the United States and abroad, notably in Tokyo following WWII. 

At one time, he had come to have a reputation for being aloof:

a hard taskmaster. 

In the classroom he did not tolerate fools gladly. 

He could make a class session a living hell for an unprepared student. 


He and his family suffered and were separated during World War II. 

Perhaps it was that suffering that built a shell around him. 

Perhaps, at one time, no one but his Lord, and his wife,

knew of the soft and tender love locked in that shell.


They say,

they say, that when he suffered a severe heart attack

and had open heart surgery

that he really had a broken heart.

And that it was from that broken and contrite heart

in his broken and suffering body

that his life was transfigured.

Something about that experience was a life-changing, life-giving conversion event for him --

a breaking apart that allowed the love of God to flow out

through the cracks of that shell that was no longer big enough

to contain all the glory of God that had entered into him.


Funny, peculiar mountain-top experience, isn't it?

Encountering the Shekinah, the glory of the God of Hosts

in the sterility of an operating room

while he was helpless to do anything but trust himself to a medical team

who would hold his very life in their hands. . .


Funny.  We want to think of mountain-top experiences as wonders --

as sheer pleasure and delight.  We think of getting away from it all on retreat

 (going up on the mountain-top) and getting in touch with God

at a time and a place of our choosing.

But that's not exactly what happened with Moses, or Elijah, or Jesus

or Isaiah,  Hannah,  Sarah,  Jeremiah,  Joseph,  Gideon, or Mary.

Their God-moments, the disclosure of God into their lives,

happened at different and most uncomfortable points in their lives. 

I think it is true, that these God-moments happen with greater frequency than we think. 

God-with-us happens at all points of life; but we are more attuned to God-with -us,

perhaps, when we are open to receive --

having opened ourselves in prayer, through fasting from food

and from the distractions of everyday life, having gone away into the wilderness.

Or when we open ourselves to receive

by silent contemplation before the loveliness of painting, sculpture, words in poetry;

when we are vulnerable to our dreams, or allow ourselves to be loved by another --

as we allow the sacraments of our Church to penetrate deeply into our consciousness;

when we know ourselves near death, and at new birth --

when we are desperately in need and helpless to help ourselves.


In these moments, when we are open to God,

perhaps because we are less certain that we are self-sufficient in ourselves,

perhaps when we are blest that we are indeed poor in spirit

and thus know our need of God, then, 

Then! there is an inbreaking of the Holy.

God is revealed in all glory.

The Kingdom of heaven is come for us -- in that moment -- on earth as it is in heaven.

It is not that we find God of our own efforts,

but rather that God encounters us

and that we are invited to move into greater spiritual growth,

into letting God's light shine through us that much more clearly.


Jesus on a mountain-top with three of his closest friends

was intensely in prayer

and there was an inbreaking of the Holy.

The Shekinah glory of God shone around him and in him.  He was transfigured.

He spoke with Moses and Elijah of his own Exodus, of his coming time in the wilderness.

Hee spoke of his Exodus, the suffering and rejection and crucifixion to come

even as his skin and clothing and hair shone and sparkled with the glory of God.

In his transfiguration


he received what he needed to be able to return to the city

and offer himself up for the sins of the world.

And something of his radiance

the heat of his holiness shimmering out from him

rubbed off on his disciples

even in their terror at the close presence of God, even in their lack of understanding then.

God did not rescue Jesus from the passion that was coming.

Yet God was not absent from him.

Even the massive evil, the calculated brutality of those who would crucify him

could not smother the glory of God that was in the Christ.


Nor does God often miraculously rescue us out from the sufferings and evils of this life.

Even if we are privileged to have wonderful mountain-top experiences

even if we want like Peter to stay on the mountain-top forever,

our real life is in mixed delights and sorrows, shadowed by human sin.

Those very human disciples became people whose radiance of holiness

was contagious.

Their experience of God shone out of them.

The heat of their love for God radiated from them

and drew others into God's sphere of love.


That transfiguration experience is not only for Jesus

not only for the disciples

not only for three holy ones I have known.

God has entered into us, into you and me as well.


As we prepare to enter into Lent this week

from this mountain-top event with God

let us learn to be in touch with that of the divine in us

breaking apart the shells we have built between us and the world

so that the radiance of God's glory can glow from our faces

be carried in our words

enlighten our actions

bringing the concrete, real love of God

shining into every everyday encounter with others

leaving some trace of the glory of God marking our way,

that people may look on us

and discover the Holy

 so that they can go on their way

feeling that a wellspring of joy has been opened in them

that something of the bright light of God has shone forth on them and in them

transfiguring their lives

by the grace of God.



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