CALL TO WORSHIP:
One: God will surprise us with kindness.
ALL: Our lives will be carried beyond the horizons of human mercy,
and enriched with overflowing love.
One: Pause, turn around on the mountain and see a new reality.
All: On this mountain we may find the free gifts of God through Christ.
One: Then, in celebration, we will refresh the world, with generosity
beyond the common place.
New Living Translation (NLT)
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people.” 13 So Moses and his assistant Joshua set out, and Moses climbed up the mountain of God.
14 Moses told the elders, “Stay here and wait for us until we come back. Aaron and Hur are here with you. If anyone has a dispute while I am gone, consult with them.”
15 Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. 16 And the glory of the Lord settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from inside the cloud. 17 To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lordappeared at the summit like a consuming fire. 18 Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
New Living Translation (NLT)
17 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. 2 As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
4 Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5 But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” 6 The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.
7 Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.
9 As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man[b] has been raised from the dead.”
PIT-STOP “TRANSFIGURATION:” MATT. 17:1-9 MARCH 2, 2014
How many here today have watched the Daytona 500 races on television; maybe some of you have gone to Daytona to see the races. The powerful cars—modified motors and bodies—the smell of grease and fuel—the noise of the crowds cheering on their hero. I noticed that each driver had a team who were just as important to winning the race and anxiously waiting for the driver to make a PIT-STOP.
At designated times during the race or if the car was acting up—the race was not going the way the driver expected- the car would make a PIT- STOP to refuel-change tires—check oil—and LISTEN TO INSTRUCTIONS from the team leader.
When I was reading today’s scripture of Moses visit up the mountain and Jesus Transfiguration story I thought it was like having a PIT-STOP. Both were on a difficult journey and stopped to get clarification they were on the right path--would successfully fulfill God purpose--- and to give assurance to their followers.
In our Exodus text, we hear about Moses’ mountaintop experience with God. God said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there.” (Ex. 24:12, NRSV)
So Moses did as the Lord instructed, and Moses waited. Six days passed. Then on the seventh day, God called to Moses from the cloud that was covering the mountain and spoke. Moses entered the cloud and went further up the mountain.
It was a PIT-STOP. Moses needed to insure he had enough fuel for the journey ahead—He needed to have his sandals changed to give him a more secure grip on his people—he needed some instructions from God to strengthen his desire to complete the journey—he needed assurance the Promised Land was in sight.
When Moses completed his time with God on the mountain, he came back down with the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. In other scriptures when Moses encountered God, the people could tell because his face became radiant and shone in the darkness.
Looking at Jesus’ ministry, I think Jesus was getting weary. Was he on the right path? He wasn’t making great gains with the people.— How about his disciples, was his message getting through to them? Jesus knew what he had to face in Jerusalem; maybe he wondered if he had the strength to continue his journey? Jesus felt he needed his battery recharged--It was time for —a PIT-STOP.
Matthew tells us of a time that Jesus went up to the mountaintop. He took his inner circle of Peter, James and John with him as he went. While they were up there, Jesus was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white and his face shone like the sun. The scripture says that Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared and began talking with Jesus.
So you might be wondering, why Moses and Elijah? Having Moses and Elijah there with Jesus represents the long history of God’s interaction with God’s people. Moses was known as the great law-giver. Through Moses, God spoke and gave the law. Elijah was the great prophet; he predicted the coming of God’s kingdom. The presence of Old Testament heroes is a reminder this narrative in Jesus’ life doesn’t take place in isolation and its bigger than Jesus and Christianity.
The similarities between the gospel account of transfiguration and the story of Moses on Mount Sinai are striking. In both stories the presence of God in the form of a cloud that envelopes a mountain, a traditional location to experience God. In both stories God’s voice provides a clear signal to the people that a significant revelation is taking place. On Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments are given to the people, in the transfiguration Christ is revealed as the embodiment of the word of God.
One of the things we are reminded Jesus is BELOVED by God. A voice said,
“THIS IS MY SON, THE BELOVED, WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED. LISTEN TO HIM.”
We would never have heard that down in the valley, never have guessed he is beloved by anybody.
Professor Thomas Long a university theology professor, tells it this way, “ we have already seen Jesus has been misunderstood by his disciples-- rejected by his hometown,--drained of his power by his neighbours’ scoffing unbelief-- and plotted against by the authorities. And now he must undergo great suffering and be rejected. Jesus beloved? Hardly. “
I believe, at the time Matthew wrote his gospel his congregation was experiencing rejection and suffering, they would recognize the parallel between themselves and Jesus. No one ever treated them as beloved! But, they could visual God’s care hovering over them, hearing God calling them “BELOVED.
I’m sure everyone here today prays to God on a regular basis, we all ask God for his help - if not for yourselves, then for others. That is good. But how many of us here today [like Moses and Jesus}] actually [wait and] listen to God?
How many times have we heard or been told “for heaven’s sake, will you just stop talking and listen for a minute!!” We are all guilty! If we are not talking we are busy thinking up what we are going to say next. Listening seems to be hard to do.
There are times when everyone needs to take a Pit-Stop. Often we fall into our daily routines without a thought about the divinity that surrounds us, without any real awareness of the power that surrounds us and holds us up. We have business to do, we have people to see, we have meals to prepare, house cleaning--we have kids to transport from daycare --to music lessons--to the hockey arena.
Often hurried off our feet in the work that we do, we forget whose we are –we forget the promise given to those who are attentive to God’s voice.
Rev. Richard Fairchild, minister out in B.C. put it this way “How many of us here in our time of prayer stop talking, stop reading, stop thinking about what concerns us and simply LISTEN. Listen to the point where you can hear your pulse beating in your ears and feel the air moving steadily and strongly in and out of your lungs. Listen to the point where images began to dance on the back of your eyelids and the spirit begins to put words upon your hearts, words that you do not think about - words that come from somewhere within you - words of praise and of assurance, words of guidance and of comfort.”
Are we willing to retreat from the crowed way of life for a while as did Moses and Jesus just to listen-to gaze upon the beauty that surrounds us and enter into the silence that embodies the moment– the silence where the words of Christ are not only remembered - but come to us fresh.
What about us? Have we acted before we listened? We who are called to be Jesus’ disciples are nevertheless divided by all sorts of conflicts. What should we be saying to a world about war—capital punishment—abortion? The Quebec Charter--rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered people —Environment degradation—Economic disparity between haves and have not? Many devout Christians are opposed to one another on such issues.
Could it be that many of us are not LISTENING TO GOD before making up our minds?
We lead such busy lives that if we are not careful we can miss the times when God’s Spirit has made its presence in our daily lives—and it’s times for PIT-STOP!
In life, moments occur that are incomprehensible. The birth of one’s own child is one of those moments. The loss of a loved one is one of those moments. There are mountaintop and valley moments throughout life. We are never ready for them. They arrive unannounced changing us in irreversible ways. We get time—time for reflection—maybe change in your thinking—receive a new purpose for your life —given the courage to face adversity—prepare our bodies to receive healing—restore a relationship. Mostly we get assurance that we are LOVED.
But there is one thing they all have in common. They demand that we be silent and listen. These moments have something to say to us, to teach us.
I will always remember the Pit-Stop Sharon and I shared when we climbed Mont. Butter Pot overlooking Conception Bay. ( with names like that you can guess we were in NFLD.)
—I might have told you this once before but it always comes to mind on Transfiguration Day. -- up the mountain it was cool and windy –all the folks who climbed before us placed a stone in the pile—a simple 12 ft. monument –we added our stones— I tried to imagine the feelings we share with others when placing stones -- We both realized it was a time to be silent and LISTEN-- the wind— the rustle of the leaves – the rain that started to fall. -- Sharon and I could sense the Creator’s presence that day.
It was ironic that this particular encounter with God happened on a mountain far from home and so unexpected, but you don’t have to find a mountain to experience God.
Dare I suggest times when it might happen and you will feel God’s presence?
--when you look into the eyes of a child.
--maybe giving a hug to a lonely relative or friend
--during silent meditation or prayer
--preparing meals-doing dishes--walking your dog-milking the cows.
It is a time when you get that feeling that something special has transpired, take a moment to have a PIT-STOP and LISTEN to God’s voice..
The stories in the scripture of Moses, Elijah and Jesus tell us what we can expect from a Pit-Stop, who could ask for better examples!
This morning we are all invited to come to the mountain top to wait, to listen and experience God; then, just as the Olympic Torch was carried from town to town, we will carry the light that shines upon us —to places in our community and into places where others may see it as well.
Let’s make it a practice to carry our torch as we enter the Lenten Season.