Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Luke 9: 28-36
When I was young, one of my uncles invited to join him on a trip across to the Pacific. We were to start in Ames and make our way out to Seattle and Portland. We made a stop in an area called Detroit Lakes in Minnesota just on this side of the state border. The lakes seemed to sprawl all over the area before us. It was really a site. Then we travel into North Dakota on the Interstate and wow it was flat. Much like Western Kansas or Nebraska. There wasn’t a hill (or tree or civilization) in sight for miles on the open flat plain. We got to Bismarck, and I remembered thinking how small the place seemed for being the state capital (in comparison to Des Moines). Yet the city was nestled comfortably at the footsteps of some decent hills.
We kept going west and the landscape remain relatively flat but we could tell we were rising as we got closer to Montana.
Then all at once, I looked over the side and saw a great expanse that I later learned was called the Painted Canyon (and part of the Badlands). We stopped for a moment to take some pictures. I was beginning to understand the words mountains majesty that day.
Montana was even more impressive. We came upon an opening in the highway between two big hills remnant of Highway to Heaven, pass through to realize we are suddenly on the side on giant mountain facing walls of mountain all around us. In this moment, I was realizing a perspective of height and distance as the side of the interstate was the side of the mountain and straight down and trees on the far walls looked like we could pinch them and they were the same size as the ones towering over us.
Mountains offer completely different perspectives for us, the disciples and offer opportunities that you just don’t get on the plains. As Robin Williams character in Dead Poets Society said to the students when teaching about perspectives. In one lesson he climbs on his desk and asks why is he doing this?
It is not just to put footprints on the desk but to remind us that we must constantly look at things in different ways. Just when you think you know something, chances are you are missing something. Look at it from different perspectives to make sure 1) we haven’t introduced bias, and 2) that we have better ideas of reality.
This is essential to something called systems thinking. Don’t let tiredness cloud your vision.
If I think about it, I might understand the perspective of Peter, James and John on this journey. They have been trekking up the mountain and Jesus ahead to pray. Folks when we hike and climb, what happens? You get tired and so they were beginning to fall asleep when all of the sudden something amazing happens.
They are able to see Jesus in ways they cannot see in the plains. They get to witness Jesus in full glory and splendor. Surely, they had many questions but could tell that Jesus was not just someone with catchy rhetoric. They saw Jesus in different perspective.
A point here is to remember that Jesus is praying when this happens. When we pray, amazing things can happen.
When you pray will you necessarily see your clothes change? Good seamstresses can make wonderful garments, but what if in making them, we added our prayer to them. Last time, we added our blessings and prayers to stones and cards, what happens when we add our prayer to what we do? Make the ordinary - extraordinary.
Maybe the question is what happens when we don’t? - Probably nothing better than what we already have.
Yet when you pray, something can happen if we give space for the experience rather than your expectation.
Richard Rohr says that prayer is not just saying words or thinking thoughts. Rather , it is a way of living in the Presence and the awareness of that Presence and even enjoying it. That is why mediation and contemplative prayer works so well but they focus upon the experience more than the right words.
Be still and open yourself to Christ’s spirit working inside you - tickling your hearts. In that moment no one can manipulate you, use you, or judge you. It is the place of freedom - liberation.
What experience do you have, what can you have and what is revealed? Perhaps, what can be revealed can move mountains because we connect. For Jesus in Luke, we see connections to God through prayer and the presence of the holy spirit. God is the oxygen for our souls; Breathe in.
The power of the holy spirit is revealed.
This prayer, this transfiguration, is more than dazzling, there is an invitation to sight and seeing. Not only are the disciples coming to grips with who Jesus is, Jesus is lighting a path for those who are searching, searching for a guide or path. Even though we have so many challenges in our lives and destruction. That is our broken world and all the trappings here, but there is path through that mess and into something fulfilling and wonderful.
These disciples may be tired, but they awaken in time to see Jesus’ glory. This is an awesome experience much like seeing mountain majesty for the first time or dramatic naturally painted rocks. Maybe we can let ourselves go in our tiredness and let Jesus reveal to us all that is possible in our prayers.
That is perhaps why Peter wants to stay on the mountain - to build places right there on the mountain. They witness the promise of God not just through Jesus but through the generations before them. They witness the strength of generations before us: what we have learned, liberation from tyrants, endurance through hardships and the gifts we have because of them.
They may not have been perfect (neither are we), but we have a path. We have perspective and light - not confined to a building but for us to witness.
See things from different perspectives. See the light. See the gifts you have. Witness the work done and experience the fullness of God.
You don’t need to go to mountains. Experience the moment and the presence rather than trying to explain what happened. Let generations teach you. Experience and see God here today in your prayer.
In the fog of exhaustion, we will see the light. Out of the darkness, there appears a light and so that light appears for you, for us in our exhaustion. Thus we have been given great light.
What do you do with that experience?
Thanks Be to God.