Transfigured by Glory

Our prayer book requires a response to the scriptures in a sermon. The preacher comments on the readings and helps us make connections with our lives. Sermons are not just Bible Studies in which we scrutinize the scriptures with critical eyes, though the sermons may take us deeply into the scriptures. Sermons are not merely essays on what is happening in the world, though no good preacher will ignore the world outside the church. Rather sermons are meant to draw us into the sweeping narrative of God’s love found in the scriptures and help us find our place in that grand story.[1]

Taize Transfiguration

I speak in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The story told in our readings for this Feast of the Transfiguration is a story of beauty and glory. In Exodus, we hear of the glory of Moses’s face, which is so resplendent that he has to cover himself with a veil. We hear of Peter, James and John witnessing Jesus appear in glory with Moses and Elijah on top of a mountain, after a nice long hike. Peter describes this experience later on in his Second Epistle when he says that Jesus “received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” And in today’s Collect, we prayed that we may be delivered from the disquietude of this world to behold the glorious King in his beauty. This Collect was, in fact, the favorite Collect of Mother Eva Mary Matthews, the founder of the Community of the Transfiguration. It was because she loved this Collect so much that she named her community after this Feast day, this beautiful and glorious event in Jesus’s life.

Today, the Sisters of the Transfiguration continue to pray that “all who ‘enter the gates’ of their chapel (and all who enter the gates of any place of Christian worship) may behold the King in His beauty and may be blessed and transfigured by this King of glory.”[2] These words are from their book “Chapel of the Transfiguration.”

And that is part of what we are doing here and now whenever we gather to worship: we are seeking to behold the King in His beauty and glory and to be transfigured by him. Through the readings, the prayers, the sacraments, the silence and the songs, God works to transform us and transfigure us; and to help us see the glorious transfiguration taking place in each other. This is how we let ourselves be swept into this story.

Christian tradition teaches that it was not so much Jesus who changed on the mountain top as much as it was the disciples’ vision that changed to see Jesus as he always was and is, beaming with glorious light. The readings invite us to open our eyes to see the glorious light of Christ beaming in each one of us.

In his sermon titled The Weight of Glory, Anglican author C.S. Lewis invites us to see this potential for divine beauty and glory in one another. He writes, “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory…; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing,” he says, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship… It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities… that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ truly resides—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”[3]

May God, through the Blessed Sacrament and the holy liturgy, deliver us from the disquietude of the world and continue to transform and transfigure each one of us to behold God in his beauty and to see the glory of Christ beaming in one another, inviting us to take each other more seriously, to love more deeply and to take our own selves less seriously in order to enjoy that most merry and joyful kind play. Amen.

 

After the sermon, silence is observed so that we may reflect on what we have heard and so that we may listen to God speak into our hearts and lives.

[1] Scott Gunn & Melody Wilson Shobe, Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices (Cincinnati OH: Forward Movement, 2018), 58 – 59.

[2] Community of the Transfiguration, “Chapel of the Transfiguration” (Cincinnati OH), ix.

[3] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 45 – 46.

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