|Easter Sunday, Year A||April 12, 2020||Easter Sunday, Year A||Matthew 28:1-10|
|Good Friday, 2020||April 10, 2020||Meditation on the Cross, Good Friday, 2020||John 18:1-19:42|
|Palm Sunday, Year A||April 5, 2020||Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday||Matthew 26:18|
|Lent 5, Year A||March 29, 2020||Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020||John 11:1-45|
|Lent 4, Year A||March 22, 2020||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Psalm 23|
|Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral||March 15, 2020||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||March 8, 2020||Lent 2, Year A||John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1, Year A||March 1, 2020||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020||February 25, 2020||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|➤Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2020||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
Sermon Date:February 23, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9
Liturgy Calendar: Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
“Transifiguration of Jesus” – Carl Heinrich Bloch (1872)
In today’s gospel Peter, James and John are filled with fear up on top of that mountain where Jesus has led them.
So many things happen so fast.
First, Jesus starts shining like the sun. And suddenly, Moses and Elijah show up and talk with Jesus.
The disciples must have felt startled and alarmed. Peter tries to exert some control over the situation—because taking control is one way we human beings deal with fear.
Peter offers to build three dwellings. After all, getting busy with a building project will give Peter some control, and be a great distraction to keep the reality of what he is seeing before his eyes from scaring him to death. And those three dwellings will help him contain Jesus, Elijah and Moses, to hold them captive, so to speak.
But before Peter even finishes speaking, God envelops the disciples in a bright cloud and says to them, “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
At this point, the three disciples fall to the ground and they are filled with a great and exceeding fear, because there is no way to exert control over this situation, and certainly nothing can distract them because God has overwhelmed their senses.
So many things happen so fast.
The disciples fall to the ground, overwhelmed by fear.
And then Jesus comes to them.
Jesus touches them.
And Jesus says to them, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples look up from the ground, Moses and Elijah are gone, the bright cloud is gone, the great voice from the cloud is silent.
When they look up, they see only Jesus.
Nothing and no one but Jesus.
Then, they go with Jesus back down the mountain, back to the distractions and the challenges that wait for them, knowing, because Jesus had told them before they went up the mountain, that he would undergo great suffering and be killed. And he did also say that on the third day that he would be raised. But Peter had argued against all of this and said “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you!” And Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan…..you are setting your mind on human things.”
Now the disciples have seen for themselves and heard from God directly that Jesus is God’s Son, the beloved, and even though they don’t realize it, now that they have seen Jesus’ shining face, they have looked into eternity, into resurrection.
So they can go back down the mountain to face their fears because now they can see more truly and clearly than they have seen before that Jesus, and Jesus, and Jesus alone, is leading them. And so they need not fear to take up their crosses. They do not even need to fear death.
Like Peter, we try to deal with many of the fears in our lives by exerting control over them, or distracting ourselves from them, or putting them into an understandable context.
All of these ways of dealing with fear are good and needed. But these coping mechanisms have their limits.
When the doctor says with regret, “There’s nothing more we can do for you. We’ve reached the end of being able to control your disease medically,” no distraction is going to be great enough to keep a person from thinking about his or her impending death. And death, no matter how hard we try to control it and keep it contained, will have its own way with us. Ultimately, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Maybe all of the fun and gluttony of Mardi Gras, stuffing ourselves with pancakes, running in pancake races, putting on parades and participating in all of the other events that take place on Shrove Tuesday are existential efforts to distract ourselves from what we must face the next day on Ash Wednesday, as the ashen crosses go on our foreheads, reminding us that our deaths are inevitable.
Our life long discipline as Christians is to remember that Jesus is God’s beloved Son and that we are to listen to Jesus, and to Jesus alone.
As followers of Jesus, we will fear, but that even in our fear, we can expect Jesus to touch us, we can expect to hear his voice, and we can expect him to tell us to get up and not to be afraid, even in death.
And our privilege as Christians and as disciples of our Lord is to help others who are in fear to hear his voice, to feel his touch, and not to be afraid.
A dramatic example of this helping work on behalf of our Lord and Savior played out right here in Port Royal last Wednesday.
Terry Hudgins, who is on our prayer list, was installing gutters at the old Lyceum building on Wednesday afternoon. No one saw what happened, but apparently the copper downspout he was trying to wrangle into place swung out of his control and hit the electric wire running nearby, sending a huge jolt of electricity through his body. The jolt knocked Terry from the top of his ladder. He slammed into the ground, and the ladder fell on top of him.
Johnny and Cookie had headed home from the food distribution when Johnny remembered that they wanted to check on the progress that Terry was making on the gutters. So they turned around and went back to the Lyceum and no Terry. Something was wrong. And then Johnny saw Terry, underneath the ladder.
So Cookie called 911. And a Permatreat man stopped to help. And Cookie called me. And Judy Fox called Nancy Long because Judy heard that something had happened on her scanner, so Nancy came running with blankets. And Charles came on his bike to see if we could help.
We did what we could in terms of controlling the situation—calling 911, wrapping Terry in Nancy’s blankets, moving the ladder, Charles and Cookie making space for the arrival of the ambulance. We tried to distract Terry from his fear by keeping him aware of what was happening. The ambulance has been called, the ambulance is on its way, help is on the way, keep breathing. We put what would happen next in a context. They’ll get you to a hospital that can help you. These were all good ways to help Terry deal with fear, and to help us deal with our own fears on behalf of this man.
The rescue people came from Bowling Green. They were professional, efficient, careful, and comforting. They reassured Terry as they went along, explaining all they were doing, asking permission to cut his clothes away so they could begin assessing his injuries, to get him on the board, and then onto the stretcher and then into the ambulance.
But here’s what else happened, the part that makes me think of the disciples up on the mountain, flat on their faces in fear. We couldn’t move Terry for fear of injuring him, and Terry couldn’t move his arms and legs, but Johnny rubbed Terry’s neck, over and over, and Terry kept saying, “Please don’t stop, that feels so good, please don’t stop. Please keep touching me.” And I prayed for him, kneeling there on the ground beside him. Nancy and Cookie and I prayed together. All of us who were there prayed to the Lord in our own ways as the time went on, asking Jesus to take away Terry’s fear and to help him.
I hope Terry felt Jesus touch him that day through Johnny’s hands. I hope Terry heard Jesus say, “Do not be afraid,” in all our voices encouraging him to keep breathing, praying for him, and reassuring him that help was on the way. And I hope that Terry knew that he was not alone. We all stayed with him until the helicopter landed on the town green, and the rescue people had gotten him in the helicopter. We waited until the helicopter had lifted off and disappeared into the early twilight sky, headed for MCV in Richmond and the trauma unit there.
We got to be the hands of Jesus, the voice of Jesus, and the presence of Jesus for Terry that day.
Good news—just as I had gotten to writing this part of the sermon, Nancy Long called to say that the emergency people called to let her know that Terry made it, that all his feeling in his arms and legs has returned, that he can walk, and that he is being released from the hospital.
So our fear and sorrow on behalf of this man has been turned to joy.
So many things happen so fast.
Remembering that Jesus is God’s beloved Son and that we are to listen to him will help us when fear catches us by surprise, and when we don’t know what to do because we can’t see the way ahead.
Suddenly, we may find that we are to act on behalf of Jesus, that Jesus is asking us to be his hands, his voice and his presence to someone filled with fear.
Or suddenly, we may find that we are the ones who are filled with fear and Jesus is telling us, the ones who fear, not to be afraid because
Jesus himself will touch us in the loving touches of those Jesus sends to us.
Jesus will speak to us in the voices of those who comfort us on his behalf.
Jesus himself will be present in our midst as we are present, through his love, to one another.