A sermon for The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, 2/27/22
As we approach Transfiguration Sunday today in the midst of the current state of the world, we take stock of where we are and what lies ahead.
Transfiguration Sunday is a day where we recognize the divinity of Jesus Chirst in preparation for the upcoming season of Lent that begins this Wednesday.
Transfiguration Sunday is the day where we celebrate Jesus’ divinity being celebrated by God.
“And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem…Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”
God wants us, wants creation to see God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and know that he is the Word of God made incarnate. God wants creation to listen, truly listen, deeply, in our hearts, to the message that Christ is sharing. For God has made connections with creation before, through the prophets Moses and Elijah, wanting us to choose a better way for ourselves, encouraging us to turn to God and God alone, hoping that we would choose God above all else.
Jesus comes to us as the final offering of God’s word to creation.
Jesus is the final opportunity for the creation to engage with God’s word walking this earth, and in that opportunity, God wants us to know Jesus’ divinity, God wants us to listen to Jesus, for Jesus is God’s son, God’s Chosen, and God implores us to listen to him.
This past week has certainly called the question of who we as creation are listening to.
We hear, read, see news that threatens the Good News offered today, that challenges the Light of Christ, that shines forth from Christ in dazzling glory, filling Christ and filling this creation in this moment today.
The unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation by another. A war of one-sided aggression, with no true purpose except a desire to exert power, influence, and control, to prove power and to intimidate others through fear. This is not real power. It is power rooted deeply in the evil impulses of self-determination without God. And yet, we have struggled, continually, to recognize this desire of power for what it truly is, knowing it only when it is done by a “bad” guy, refusing to acknowledge our own abilities to exercise this desire for power in our own lives.
The passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Floriday, and perhaps even more damaging the announcement by the Attorney General of Texas declaring that loving and supporting and caring for Trans youth is child abuse, are examples of this exercise of and desire for power that is rooted in evil. The new policy in Texas is so shockingly evil because it will only threaten the lives of children and youth, children and youth who are already in vulnerable places in their lives even if they come from the most supportive family background, which is not a given. And this policy only exists because someone wants to exert the fact that they have power over others.
What’s most damaging about the actions taken by those in power this week is that these actions have either been taken under the guise of “Christianity” or at the very least are being supported by “Christians.”
This is a version of so-called Christianity that has been doubled down on in other political circles to justify and defend many actions over the past several years, and has grown over the past year as a catch all to defend such things as: the attempted overthrow of the US government on January 6 2021; to defend the actions of Putin invading Ukraine; to persecute LGBTQIA+ youth and children; to justify white supremacy and white nationalist rhetoric. All of this, and more, has been done under the guise of Christian Nationalism, a movement where Christian identity is married with Nationalistic and supremecist thinking, creating a perversion of what it means to be a Christian, and leads to an othering of every part of creation that is not aligned with your very narrow view of the world.
So, how do we respond as Christians?
How do we respond as Episcopalians?
How do we name the harm and threats that are being made against our beloved siblings in creation by the forces of evil working in this world, working under the cloak of Christian Nationalism?
How do shine the light of Christ into this world so that the darkness cannot overcome creation?
Within his first year as Presiding Bishop, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, began to speak of the Episcopal church as a “branch of” “the Jesus Movement.”
We are part of the Jesus Movement.
We are part of the Christian church, the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We are only a part of it. There are many parts. There are many parts we disagree with. There are many parts that are acting more and more like they’ve forgotten they are part of a larger body. There are many parts that are acting like they’ve forgotten that Jesus is part of the movement.
Jesus, who is the center of all we do.
Jesus, who is the way we can have the relationship with God that we celebrate and commemorate every single day.
The Jesus of this day, Transfiguration Sunday, whose face changes as he is clothed in dazzling white, who is conversing with the greatest prophets of God’s chosen people in Moses and Elijah, who God comes over the small group of disciples gathered there on the mountain top with Jesus to declare, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
With Jesus at the center of our worship, we cannot worship Nationalism.
With Jesus at the center of our worship, we cannot worship power and influence.
Because with Jesus at the center of our worship, we must listen to him as God implores us to do today, and Jesus is clear in what the expectations are: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
When we listen to Jesus, our hearts are filled only with love, there is no more room left for that insatiable hunger for power rooted in evil.
And, as we listen to Jesus today, on that mountain top, we’re implored to be part of a movement.
The disciples that have been given the privilege of being present for this event are astounded, and don’t really know how to react. Peter, fumbling over himself, suggests building a shrine to this moment, never leaving this mountain top, making Jesus’ divinity the whole point of the Good News, but Jesus is not building a religion of solitude, of divinity alone, Jesus is not intentionally building a religion at all. Rather, Jesus is working to inspire people into a movement that reorients their faith. A movement that exists amongst creation, not on a mountain top.
In being challenged to “listen to him,” especially in the current landscape of creation, where the hunger for power and influence and in turn the diminishing of others, the persecution of others, the killing of others, in order to gain more, is dominating our collective consciousness, we must take to heart the message from God today, to listen to Jesus’ sense of what it will take to create a movement, to listen to the Good News that Jesus offers to creation, to listen and continually reorient our own practice of faith on Jesus, on love, so that we can take this message out into creation and challenge others to reorient their own faith onto Jesus, onto God, onto Love that fills our hearts leaving no room for anything else, reflecting the dazzling light that Jesus is transformed into on this day.
This is the Jesus movement that we are called to be a part of as Christians. This is the Jesus movement that we are called to live into in our baptismal covenant.
We can be leaders in this movement as the Episcopal branch by being a church that practices what Jesus asked us to do.
We do this by denouncing evil at work in the world, clamoring for war.
We do this by denouncing evil at work in the world and work to protect LGBTQIA+ children and youth, and support their parents, teachers, health care workers, and more, in protecting them.
We do this by denouncing evil at work in the world by unequivocally stating that our Trans siblings are beloved expressions of divine creation and creativity, made in God’s transformational image.
This is the call we receive on Transfiguration Sunday when God declares: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”