Year B Transfiguration mark9
Jesus Transfigured (For the Ages)
Mark 9:2-9

Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University wrote a remarkable study of the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ titled Jesus Through the Centuries. Dr. Pelikan demonstrates how Jesus has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture. Each age has made Jesus relevant to its own needs. Jesus has furnished each new age with answers to fundamental questions as every generation has had to address new social problems that tested the more fundamental questions of human existence. The world had to take note of Jesus as a rabbi, as the Cosmic Christ, the Ruler of the World, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Son of Man, the True Image of Man, the Great Liberator. In many other ways Jesus furnished the answers and the images that affected society in positive ways.

Dr. Pelikan's thesis is that Jesus did not and does not belong to the churches and the theologians alone, but that he belongs to the world. None of this is to say that we can make Jesus what we want Jesus to be. Quite the opposite. It is to say that the Christ is adequate for all our needs and that Jesus transcends culture in such a way that he is able to belong to each age and to address the issues of all time. To understand that, we can do no better than to look to the Holy Gospel for today, which celebrates the transfiguration of our Lord. In that momentous event we learn how and why Jesus belongs to the centuries. Look with me for a moment at all the small elements of this story and you too will see why Jesus belongs to the world and to the ages. Let's look first at...

  1. The Event
  2. The Happening
  3. A Reaction
  4. Some Gibberish
  5. It Was Not To Be
  6. Our View
  7. Our Hope

Hurts Can Heal
2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Have any of you ever looked through "night vision goggles."

[Or, if you can get a pair to show to the congregation . . . . ]

Do any of you know what these are? Night vision goggles.

Used by the military, and in all good spy novels, the special light source used in "night vision" technology allows you to see someone as much as 200 yards away on a moonless night. Night vision goggles project out either a near infra-red light source, or ultraviolet radiation, to detect the presence of individual photons. The "energy" of photoelectrons becomes "light" as electrons strike a fluorescent screen in the goggles. This allows the wearer to "see" figures and movements in pitch blackness. The goggles transform blind blundering into stealthy reconnaissance. They take the "bump" out of the night.

Unless someone nearby hits a light.

Ironically, the sudden flood of light that gives everyone else sight, strikes the goggle wearer instantly and painfully blind. Hit by a tidal wave of light, the eyes of the goggle-wearer screech "over-load" and shoot painful reminders back to the brain. The pain, the hurt, while not pleasant, does its job. It tells the eyelids, "Stay closed!"

As those who have once been blind, and then receive sight, will testify, whenever we come into the light after getting accustomed to darkness, it hurts. This hurt is not an evil hurt, or a vicious hurt. It is a hurt that reminds us that things are changing, that we need to adapt, that something new is going on.

The first and biggest light-to-dark "hurt" we all experience none of us remember. After nine comfy, warm, liquid months in the dark womb, we are all born by "coming into the light." In Spanish "to give birth" is "dar a luz," literally, to give to the light. And that process of birth is painful. It is rightly named "birth-pangs." The light that floods each baby's new eyes is harsh, unknown, and frightening.

Just as it hurts to be born, to come into the light of this world, it also hurts to grow up. How many of you remember waking up in the middle of the night with an out of the blue leg cramp, ankle ache, thigh knot? Look around you at the teenagers in our midst. Every one of them can tell you about this hurt. Some of them had this hurt last night.

Parents have an annoying way of looking down at their moaning, writhing kids and saying in that smug, "I'm a grown-up" voice, "Oh, it's just growing pains!" As if giving the pain that name "growing" somehow made it tame and tenuous. As young bodies stretch, extend, lengthen, and realign, there is real "ouch-that-hurts" pain involved.

And yet the most painful growing pains don't even involve muscle, bones, and sinews. The most painful growth we experience involves a lot more than body mass.

When vegetables grow, they sprout from seed with all they need to develop their "vegetableness." Just add water, and vegetables grow. Cabbages become cabbages. Carrots become carrots. Beets become beets. Broccoli becomes broccoli. Just add water and a potato becomes what a potato was made to be: a potato.

But people don't "grow" like vegetables. People mature. To get a human being, you need to do more than add water, and bread. Although ask any parent here this morning, and they will tell you: it takes lots and lots of "bread." (What is the cost of raising one child nowadays? A couple hundred thousand dollars?)

Just because you get taller, heavier, bigger, doesn't mean you are "growing" as a human being. A human being is less a condition than a task. Becoming "human" is a mission, not a position. "Maturation" is accomplished only through a genuinely painful series of learnings, and learnings are often another word for "deaths" and "resurrections."

Infancy to toddlerhood? Painful.
Toddler to Kindergarten School? Painful.
Lumpy little kid to bully big kid? Painful.
Middle school? Nothing but pain.
High school? We should put Novocain in the water.
Separation from parents, from friends, from home, from the way you've done "life" for 18 years , aka "going to college?" Painful.

Sadistic sociologists now preach that "26 is the new 18" among boys. For parents, that is painful to hear! And "official adulthood" does not lessen "growth pains" one bit. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Marriage. Children. Divorce. Death. Jobs. Unemployment. Mortgages. Not being able to afford a mortgage. All those maturation processes are painful. They are all a series of "deaths" and "resurrections."

When Paul, once again, wrote to his cantankerous Corinthian church, it was to, once again, try and shine the light of the great truth he had experienced on the Damascus Road into the darkened hearts of these would-be disciples of Jesus. Paul's mission had matured. He had gone through a series of personal "deaths" and personal "resurrections."

On the Damascus Road Paul experienced a blinding, painful light... presents Leonard Sweet