Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter 7, Year C May 29, 2022 Easter 7, Year C John 17:20-26
Easter 6, Year C May 22, 2022 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 14:23-29
Easter 5, Year C May 15, 2022 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 13:31-35, Revelation 21:1-6, Acts 11:1-18
Easter 4, Year C May 8, 2022 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 10:22-30, Acts 9:36-43, Revelation 7:9-17
Easter 3, Year C May 1, 2022 The Third Sunday of Easter, Year C John 21:1-19
Easter 2, Year C April 24, 2022 Easter 2, Year C John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday, Year C April 17, 2022 Easter, Year C John 20:1-18
Good Friday, Year C April 15, 2022 Good Friday, Year C John 18:1-19:42
Palm Sunday sermon April 10, 2022 April 10, 2022 Palm Sunday Luke 22:14-23:56
Lent 5 April 3, 2022 Lent 5, Year C John 12:1-8
Lent 4, Year C March 27, 2022 Lent 4, Year C Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Lent 3 March 20, 2022 Third Sunday in Lent, 2022 Luke 13:1-9
Lent 2 March 13, 2022 Lent 2, Year C Luke 13:31-35
Ash Wednesday, Year C March 2, 2022 Ash Wednesday, Year C Genesis, chapter 4
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C February 27, 2022 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

 

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Sermon Date:February 27, 2022

Scripture: Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

Liturgy Calendar: Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C


“Transfiguration” – Fra Angelico (1440-42)


On the first Sunday of the season after the Epiphany, my daughter Catherine and I were in California.  During the time you all were at St Peter’s, hearing Ben reflect on the baptism of Jesus, Catherine and I were in church as well. 

We walked through a magnificent open air cathedral.  Its springy floor consisted of rich dark soil from which sprang green carpets of ferns, out of which towered redwood trees.  A deep silence pervaded this shadowy sanctuary. 

And then the light!  The sun shone through the mist, creating streams of light,  bringing to mind this bit of poetry from the romantic poet William Wordsworth,

“But trailing clouds of glory do we come, from God who is our home.” 

If any human being on this earth trailed clouds of glory throughout his life, that person would be Jesus himself, whose birth was announced to the shepherds by an angel, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were terrified.

Jesus was marked by God’s glory at his baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 

Every year, on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, we hear about the transfiguration of Jesus.  God covers Jesus in glory. 

Jesus goes up a mountain to pray, and while he is praying, God’s glory covers him.  “The appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

Moses and Elijah appear in glory, and the disciples, weighed down by sleep, but still aware, see Jesus in glory as well.  And then a cloud of glory overshadows them all, and the disciples are terrified, just as the shepherds were terrified that night in the fields, when the angel of the Lord shown round about them.   

From the cloud that overshadows them, comes the voice again, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

According to scholar Gerhard Kittel, the word “glory” as it is used in the New Testament, “denotes ‘divine and heavenly radiance,’ the ‘loftiness and majesty’ of God and even the ‘being of God’ and God’s world.” 

When we see God’s glory with our own eyes,  awe, and even terror are appropriate reactions, for after all, we are made from dust.  We are  “the feeble and frail.”

But we can feel in those rare moments when we become aware that God’s glory surrounds us, that we are not only witnessing the loftiness and majesty of God, but that we, insignificant as we are, are being drawn into the glory  of God and being transformed by God’s divine radiance into the people God means us to be, only by God’s mercy. 

This transformation is what Paul refers to in his letter to the quarrelsome Corinthians, when he says that” all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” 

When we enter into God’s glory we are all being transformed by God into the people God means us to be. 

This transformation does not occur all at once, but instead happens in what seem like often discouraging fits and starts, one step forward, two steps back. 

Luke gives us example after example of our halting transformations, and God’s continuing mercy for us.  The day after they had witnessed the transformation,  right after the disciples have been immersed in God’s glory, they are unable to cast out a demon from the son of a desperate man.  A little later, they don’t understand Jesus when he talks about his imminent death, and they even argue over which of them is the greatest.  All less than glorious. 

So as today’s gospel ends, we find ourselves not on the mountaintop, enveloped by God’s glory, but in the valley, surrounded and overwhelmed by demands that we cannot fulfill on our own.

But the gospel also reminds us that even in the valley, we  are still with Jesus, who leads us on, expecting and encouraging our transformation into people through whom God’s radiance and glory shine.     

Paul says that “it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, so we don’t lose heart.” 

And we must not lose heart in the face of the divisions among us, in the disasters of war, and in the disregard for God that blinds us to God’s glory and holds us in thrall to all that would destroy us. 

In his poem, “Go to the Limits of your Longing,” Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke points out that God goes with us in the daunting challenges that life brings.  God speaks to us, just as the disciples heard God’s voice at Jesus’ baptism and God’s voice coming from the cloud of God’s glory that covered them on the mountain. 

God speaks to each of us as well. 

Rilke writes: 

God speaks to each of us as God makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
 
These are the words we dimly hear:
 
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
 
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
 
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
 
Give me your hand.

So listen for God, for God does speak to each of us and if we listen, we will hear.  Take God’s hand. Go willingly into the terrifying cloud of God’s glory, because it is in that cloud of glory that God will  transform our lives, so that God’s mercy can work in us and through us.