Transformed for a Purpose (A Sermon for The Feast of the Transfiguration)

Transformed for a Purpose (A Sermon for The Feast of the Transfiguration)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
Exodus 34:29-35
Luke 9:28-36
August 6, 2017

“Is it real?” That’s one of my boys’ favorite questions. When they encounter something new or different that is what they want to know. Reality for them is something that can be seen, tasted, touched, smelled, and heard. Reality was determined by, and limited to, the five physical senses.

If it cannot be seen, tasted, touched, smelled, or heard then it is not real – at least in this world. We tend to live with a veil that separates the exteriorized world of tangible, measurable, rational information from that other world, the inner world of mystery, transformation, and encounter.

There are moments, however, when that veil is parted and we stand in what the Celtic tradition calls a “thin place.” Thin places describe the veil being parted between this world and the other world, whatever that is. Between heaven and earth, between the divine and the human, between matter and spirit, between the eternal and the temporal. In the thin place the duality of those pairings disappears.

The difficulty for us is that, like my young sons, we often limit our world and our experience to the five senses, to those things we can verify, explain, and understand. The five senses themselves in some way become the veil that separates us from that other world.

Thin places invite us to step outside the five senses, to step outside what we know, what we can understand and explain. They invite us to be astounded by the greatness of God, to enter the “mysterium tremendum,” the tremendous mystery of God’s presence and love.

In the thin places we know ourselves to be overshadowed by the holy.

I remember the day Ford was born and the nurse placed him in my arms. I saw his wrinkled skin, I heard his cry, and I felt his weight in my hands. But there was more than I could ever see, hear, or touch. I also entered into the mystery of life and creation in a way never before. I was standing in a thin place. The veil had been parted and I had been forever changed.

Thin places do that. They transform our lives. They transfigure us.

We stand, and see, in a different light. That is what happened to Peter, James, and John. Jesus led them to a thin place, a place where human ears would hear God’s voice, human eyes would see divine light, and human life would be enveloped in the cloud of God’s presence.

That’s great longing of humanity, isn’t it? We long to stand in the thin place and experience God. That longing is what encourages pilgrims to journey to holy places around the world. It called our spiritual ancestors to the desert and monasteries. It is why we persevere in prayer and study.

That’s why spirituality books flood the shelves of bookstores, or at least Amazon. And I think that’s one of the reasons we show up in church week after week. We want to come face to face with what is really real.

That is exactly what happened to Peter, James, and John on the mountain. They came face to face with the Real – the holy. It was not simply an outer experience, one that could be tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard. It was rather an experience of inner transformation, one that left them silent.

That is exactly what happened to Moses. He, too, was up on a mountain and experienced God, and it changed him.

But this is not simply a story about Peter, James, John, or Moses. It is a story about God’s encounter, through Christ, with all humanity. We too are called to the thin places. Transfiguration is all around us.

Think for a moment about the thin places of your own life. When was a time you knew you were standing in the presence of the holy, and your life was forever changed?

Maybe it was the first time you held your child or grandchild. Or maybe it was a beautiful sunset. Perhaps it was forgiveness that opened the possibility for a new life. Or maybe it was a time when you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were loved, not because of what you did, but simply because you exist.

These are the thin places of our life, moments of transfiguration that leave us astounded at the greatness of God.

And they leave us forever changed.

But this change isn’t just for us. It isn’t just something that makes us feel good, or happy, or even something that just makes us feel close to God.

We are changed for a reason. We are transformed for a purpose.

When Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down that mountain, Jesus immediately goes and heals some one.

And then, in the very next chapter, Jesus sends out his followers. He comes down from the mountain, where he was transfigured and his disciples transformed, and he sends people out.

So these thin places, these places where we meet God and experience Christ, aren’t meant just for us. Like Peter, we can’t try to pitch a tent and stay there.

Instead we come down the mountain, and we get to work. We come down the mountain, and we go out into the world. We come down the mountain, and we share our experience of God with others.

So think about that this week. Where have you experienced a thin place? Where have you come face to face with God…with Jesus…and been forever changed. Think about those moments, and then go out and tell someone.

Amen? Amen.

Transformed for a Purpose (A Sermon for The Feast of the Transfiguration)