Saturday, February 05, 2005

Thinking about the Transfiguration

The Old Testament text and the NT text for tomorrow are both stories of theophanies (an appearance of God to a human; divine manifestation). Sunday, February 6 is Transfiguration Sunday in many churches, mine included. A friend at the clergy dinner last night asked me if I was preaching the Gospel lection for Sunday and I replied, "Yes, I love talking about the transfiguration to contemporary people". It is just the oddest thing.

Our world does not include visitations from the Almighty nor do we see holy people wreathed in "glory" as were Moses and Jesus when we go to Walmart or the golf course. We are bereft of mystery in our time. Our hunger for the Mystery doesn't disappear no matter the Age so this desire manifests itself in New Age yearnings and even worse, the wiccan search to control and inhale nature.

All my commentaries, when attempting to make these passages (Exodus 24:12-18 and Matthew 17:1-9) relevant to today's believers develop schemas such as the importance of the wait (Moses was uppada Sinai for seven days), the importance of witnesses to the event (Joshua went with Moses to the Mountain; Jesus took Peter, James and John with him); and the transforming experience of coming very, very close to God.

It's late Saturday afternoon as I write this. I am not satisfied with my sermon for tomorrow on these two texts. Nothing I've written in the sermon seems to make real this experience of Moses, Jesus It may not be my task as a preacher to make these stories real but as I believe they are included in the text for their value in explaining God, I keep searching. It is the nature of mystery that it cannot be explained but I am hoping to give a glimpse with my words tomorrow.

These passages are familar to me. I've preached on these texts at least six different times, done the exegesis on each in preparation for grading ordination exams as a Reader for the denomination several years ago and pondered the stories in devotional reading through the years. Still, I wonder if I have anything to say about them to my people tomorrow.

My experiences of theophany have been in the oddest of situations: in dreams which leave me comforted but uneasy that I am mis-interpreting my hormonal influences to "see" God; in a "vision" after a miscarriage which I cannot explain to this day; and in seeing people reconcile when I never imagined such a thing. I don't think I've had experience with theophany. Maybe in hindsight or out of the corner of my eye when I saw the Holy for a second.

Whatever happens, I WILL be in the pulpit leading worship tomorrow at 11am. God be with me to understand God's word by then.
God be with you and yours.


PPB said...

It sounds to me like you're on the right track (and at least you're not trying to insert theological musings on the super-bowl into the sermon.) I have a few more hours than you (Sundays at 5 p.m. for me) and will have MUCH smaller congregation (first chapel for the semester during super bowl--now that's using your head)but I doubt I'll have anything close to your pithy insightfulness. Would love to hear you preach someday.

Preacher Mom said...

I have to confess that I'm not doing the lectionary passages for tomorrow in worship. My excuse is that we will be using last week's passages tomorrow since our service last week was iced out. You know, no need to waste all that preparation. (Okay, okay. So I didn't finish last week's sermon until last night. The rest of the service was planned!) I am relieved, though. I, too, have preached on those passages for about 6 years and I've yet to feel like I've done a decent job with them. It makes me feel less alone when I here of other ministers with similar struggles. Thanks for sharing.

Songbird said...

I'm there, too, and I've only preached on them three times! I did as Preacher Mom did and used the passages from the week before, largely because they spoke to me and needed talking about in our context, I thought. But don't worry, there's another pass at the Transfiguration coming right up!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.