All Y’All 2-11-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:2-29, I explore the confusing situation of the Transfiguration. We don’t fully grasp just what went on, but that’s okay. We just need to remember to listen to what Jesus has to say to us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/all-yall-2-11-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

In recent years, I’ve gotten a lot of experience in dealing with young people, particularly junior high and high schoolers…not to mention the fact that I’m raising a couple of kids in that range…and in that time, I’ve observed something that has now become a bit of a motto.  Every 15 year old is a moron…just try not to be much of a moron.

Namely, yes you will make mistakes, but try to not be stupid.  (pause) Now in recent history, there has been news of this “15 year old syndrome” spreading around…apparently the hip thing was to record yourself eating a Tidepod…one of those little packets of laundry soap…and then posting the video online.

I really hope that this trend has already played itself out…but if not…and you are considering the Tidepod challenge…don’t. Its stupid. And because of this I can’t help but think that Tide has been concerned about their image and that the marketing department felt the need to do some scrambling…and what better way to go viral in the positive sense…than to take advantage of the huge viewership of the Super Bowl…and with that, we saw commercial after commercial…situation after situation, all the way through the game when a working actor named David Harbour pops up out of nowhere to tell…Tide Commercial. No stains…bright colors…Tide Commercial.

And I couldn’t help but think that if Jesus was walking around these days and not 2000 years ago…this is what the scripture would say…And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…such as no one on earth could bleach them…No Stains…Tide Commercial. (pause)

Super Bowl marketing aside, we find ourselves here at the end of Epiphany…and one last story of how Jesus is revealed to the world…the Transfiguration. We hear story at this time every year, just before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent…and it’s a familiar one.

Jesus grabs the big 3 disciples…Peter, James, and John, and they walk up a mountain, just the 4 of them…and up on that mountain…something unexpected and amazing happens…the transfiguration. Jesus is somehow changed…even his clothes take on dazzling appearance…Old Testament big wigs pop up…Moses the giver the of the Law and Elijah the greatest of the prophets…and they’re standing there talking with the Jesus.

Now I can only imagine what the three disciples must have been thinking in this moment…I can only think that it must have been incredible to witness…this amazing transformation that Jesus undergoes, even if its momentary…and honestly…I find myself a little jealous of what they witnessed. It must have something to behold…something amazing to see…something that honestly probably goes far beyond the ability to truly describe.

Now the authors of the gospels try to clue us in…this story pops up in 3 of the 4 gospels and they’re all pretty similar so apparently whatever it was that Peter and James and John experienced that day…whatever it was that they saw…this was the best that they could explain it.

But honestly…what happened? We don’t have a whole to go on do we? Jesus is somehow changed…his clothes get super bright…and 2 random dudes who should be dead pop up out of nowhere…That’s the transfiguration…that’s all the detail we’re given before Peter starts acting like Peter and starts blabbing, apparently succeeding in putting his foot in his mouth…because his words seemingly prompt God to show up…or in the very least for a thick cloud to overshadow them and the voice of God to come booming out all around them. “This is my son, the beloved…Listen to him.” (pause)

Now as we hear…whatever it is that’s going on, even before the cloud and the voice of God show up…its terrifying…and I’ve often times found myself wondering just what it is that Peter and the other two guys are experiencing…and honestly it can get a little frustrating that we’re actually given so little to go on.

Just what actually happened up on that mountain? (pause) This is a question that scholars have pondered on for 2 millenia…with many different attempts to explain it…ways to rationalize or to consider the few small details of this epic event that we are given in the narrative.

But admittedly, I’ve never found anything that adequately revealed just what went on…every explanation that I’ve come across…and honestly even some that I’ve tried to offer in the past…they all come up short…and I can only think that our language, and not only that but our ability to understand and comprehend will always be lacking when it comes to the divine…and I can only think that this is what was somehow happening on the mountain…that in this brief instance…in this amazing and yet terrifying situation, somehow the divinity of Jesus was shining through the human.

We don’t know what exactly that means…and apparently beyond referencing a tide commercial and the lack of human ability to produce the effect of what’s going on with Jesus…maybe that’s all we can say…that in this instance we are reminded that this man who was walking around…this man who could perform miracles…this man who possessed amazing authority was…in fact…God the son…The word made flesh…the creator of the universe and everything in it who has come among us as one of us…and for just a brief fleeting moment on top of a mountain…that divine eternal all-encompassing entity came shining through the man… (pause)

To call this moment a revelation of Jesus’ true identity perhaps goes without saying…but then we get divine confirmation when the voice of the Father booms out. This is my son. (pause) Transfiguration aside…that’s a big deal too…Jesus is only called the Son of God 3 times in Mark’s Gospel…and all three occur alongside something pretty incredible.

Jesus is baptized and we hear that the heavens are ripped open and the holy spirit lands upon him…and we hear the voice of God. You are my beloved Son…Here Jesus is transfigured, whatever that means….and we hear again, this is my son the beloved…and the third time occurs during Jesus’ crucifixion…as the sun has gone black for several hours and the curtain in the temple spontaneously rips in two…and the centurion standing there before the cross says Truly this is the son of God.

3 times…3 divinely empowered events…3 proclamations of the true identity of this man named Jesus…the beloved Son…but what makes today special…what makes the Transfiguration stand out among these 3 events…is that God also gives us a command.

Now we hear God say, this is my beloved son, listen to him…but its worth digging just a little bit…we pick up in the original language that God isn’t just talking to Peter in response to his bonehead comment about staying put and building tents to live in…God is talking to everyone…like if we were in Texas God would be talking to All ya’ll.

Like…All ya’ll listen up to what my sons got to say. (pause)
Now funny enough, Jesus doesn’t say a ton here, other than waiting until after he’s raised from the dead to talk about what has happened….but we do get a clue as to what we’re supposed to listen to…and its kicks off today’s reading.  6 days later. (pause) 6 days later than what?

If we back up in the narrative we find the exchange between Jesus and Peter when Peter calls Jesus the Messiah…and Jesus promptly lets him in on just what that means…that the messiah will be betrayed and killed but on the third day raised again…and Peter wigs out, rebuking Jesus before Jesus calls him Satan…that’s what happened 6 days before the Transfiguration.

But that’s not the only time we hear this message from Jesus. Right after this story, as they get down the mountain, Jesus cast a demon out of boy and then repeats the same message. The Messiah will be betrayed and crucified but on the third day he will be raised.

And not only that…but Jesus shares this message a third time. (pause) You’ve ever thought about the importance of repetition? That if something keeps popping up its probably worth listening to? Seems to the case with this message that Jesus proclaims…this message that he is the Messiah and that he will be betrayed and killed but that through his life and death and then his resurrection God is truly up to something new…something utterly different…something utterly beyond our ability to fully grasp and understand.

But we are given little glimpses aren’t we? Little bits in the scripture about the presence of the kingdom of heaven which has come near to us…and the promise that we have a place in it because of what has Christ has done. This is the message that he has come to proclaim…the message that he has come to embody…the message and the promise that he has come to deliver to each one us.

We are flawed broken people…utterly limited in our existence and our ability to comprehend and grasp things that are divine…utterly inadequate to fully describe moments when we encounter the divine before us…and yet, we are still recipients of God’s divine favor, shown to us simply because of God’s amazing, all encompassing, way bigger than we can fully understand, love for each one of us.

And through the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, the divine is taking action in our reality to show us that there is no length that God will not go to in order to be with us.

That’s the gospel…that’s his message to all the world…so All Ya’ll…listen to him. Amen

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