February 26, 2017 – Year A – Transfiguration Sunday
Let’s take a jaunt up Carmi Road. We head towards The Lost Moose and marvel at the wonder of creation. But as we gain altitude there are clouds blocking the view. But as we spend time, the clouds lift and before us is the beautiful panorama of the Penticton valley.
Does this sound a little like the Moses story and Jesus with Peter and James? I hope so, for amazingly beautiful Holy Mystery is with us, if we are open to the experience. Today’s scripture describes mountain top experiences. The awesome and astounding happens right before our eyes.
There is no doubt that mountain top things look different. From the heights one can see the whole vista and how it interrelates to the entire created order. In the worldview of ancient Israel the mountain top was where heaven and earth met, and God could be perceived more clearly and completely. Let’s face it, it is a struggle to have a clear picture of the majesty of God. Our experience of God moments are often beyond words.
A woman arrives at my office, shaking and teary-eyed. She needs to talk. Part way into the conversation I ask her “have you been abused?” Sure enough, through more tears and much silence she tells me the story of years of abuse. As we continue to talk, she stops – looks straight at me and says, “This is the first time I really feel heard and understood.” For her, our conversation led to a new sense of control, peace and transformation. The journey to healing is a gradual one. But new life is God’s gift to her.
Six days a week we host meetings of Narcotics Anonymous. It is a self-help group who gather regularly to support, encourage and call to accountability those who are addicted to narcotics. Using the same 12 step process as Alcoholics Anonymous, the members acknowledge their surrender to a Higher Power and that they are powerless over narcotics. At meeting after meeting, members tell us that a new door has opened and that a profound change within them has occurred. Transformation is real!
I have had numerous transfigurations and transformations throughout my life. My call to ministry 39 years ago was nothing short of life changing. I left a secure and fulfilling job at the YMCA to return to university and present myself as a candidate for ministry. I fought with God, did everything I could think of to convince God that I was not minister material. And yet, God said to me, “You are my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” Standing in Lake Galilee, having friends throw a surprise party to honour me just for being me, and being in Scotland on sabbatical were all transforming times.
Even though the mountain top experience of Moses, and the transfiguration of Jesus are awfully hard to explain, I have no doubt that something amazing happened to them! So, it raises for me the question, “what transformations and transfigurations are happening today?”
As we listen to scientists and environmentalists, they are sending out a loud cry on behalf of the planet. They tell us that carbon emissions are slowly reducing, but we must do more. I believe this church’s commitment to reducing, recycling, and renewal is a concrete sign of care for the planet. Transformation is real.
As we listen to economists, they remind us that bigger is not always better. And so, we commit ourselves to ethical spending. We know that a strong economy is one based on fair distribution of resources. How we shop and what we purchase affects the community of Penticton and the global patterns. The money paid for our daily cup of coffee from Tim Hortons or Starbucks could feed one person from a developing country for a month. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Imagine if all of us gave up one purchased cup of coffee a day and donated the corresponding amount of money to the M&S fund of our church – what amazing possibilities that would create. Transfiguration happens in many settings. That is true in our household, and true for us as a church. We know that our church finances are being managed carefully and prudently. It is with that assurance, we pledge our own resources so that the ministry of transformation might continue.
As we listen to political analysists, we learn that violence against another human being does not bring permanent stability to a region. Instead, we know that discussion, reconciliation and mediation are more likely to bring long lasting change. Just imagine if the mighty leaders of the world were to invest time and resources to support refugees, encourage immigrants, stand with prisoners of conscience – think how different our world would be. But you and I have a role to play. Our support of our own 2 Syrian refugee families is a tremendous step towards transformation. Our letter writing and financial support on behalf of Amnesty International brings freedom and new hope.
Now, let’s look closer to home. Earlier this week, I was reading a report done in 2004 about financial stability for our church. It pointed out that the future of Penticton United Church is bleak unless we open ourselves to a way of change and commitment. This report urged us to look at our own household budgets and commit to increasing our contributions. That was 13 years ago, and sure enough you did give generously. Just 2 weeks ago we committed ourselves to supporting the mission and ministry of this church. Rather than focusing on potential closure, we affirmed that we are a people of hope and faith. We know we can do it. For we are a transformed people. We received a significant bequest from Blanche Mullins. She believed in this church. She wanted her money to go to strong ministry and outreach. Next year we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of this sanctuary. We have offered a strong and vital presence on the corner of Main and Eckhardt Streets. We have been a sentinel of compassion and justice. May we have the conviction and determination to serve on this corner for many more years.
A child from the play share program ran up to me on Wednesday and gave me a hug. She was bubbling over with excitement and she was gathering with her friends and teachers for a morning of fun. May we too, be so enthusiastic! May we let go of our fear and embrace the possibilities! May we open our eyes and see the mountain top view!