Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 6 Aug. 2017, Transfiguration
Year A, RCL: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36
What's going on today?
We're in the church's green season,
yet we use our white hangings
like we do for All Saints, Christmas, Easter, weddings & funerals.
Today is Aug. 6, the day we focus on Jesus' Transfiguration. [It was last on Sunday in 2006.] We use white to remind us of the brightness of God's Love we see in Jesus, the Love & purity which shines so brightly in our Gospel & our 1st lesson, which tells us how people react when they see Moses' shining face after he encounters God & brings the covenant to the people. [The Jewish Study Bible calls the covenant the Pact 1.]
Our scriptures shine with God's glory. In our 2nd lesson, Peter reminds us of the Holy Spirit's work & his own first-hand experience we hear in our Gospel.2 Notice how our Gospel demonstrates life in community: Jesus takes disciples with him to do the work of prayer.
Jesus relies on us to work with him.
Our Gospel's focus on Jesus' transfiguration we also read in Mark 9 & Matthew 173. It shows us a range of activity & reactions:
- The men go up the mountain with Jesus.
- Jesus prays. His face changes. His clothes shine. [The Revised Standard Version says, his clothes become white as a flash of lightning.4
- Moses & Elijah appear & talk with him about his departure, which sources call his exodus5.
- The disciples feel tired.
- A cloud comes over them.
- They feel terror & hear God say Jesus is God's Son, listen to him.
What about the building project
How rash does he sound?
Offering to build dwellings for Jesus, Moses & Elijah shows Peter, who will be a leader of the church, “grasps the theological significance of the event...”6 from his experience as one who observes the feast of booths specified in Deut. 16:13.
[You can read about the feast, with an interesting twist, in The Year of Living Bibilically by A.J. Jacobs7, which we will use as a monthly study starting in September.]
How do we respond when we encounter significant events?
What makes your face, your eyes shine?
How do we build & enhance community?
How would you handle yourself working in outer space & seeing 16 sunrises & 16 sunsets in each 24-hour period?
I learned about this reality reading about Astronaut Andrew Feustel, who will be commander on his 3rd mission to space, orbiting 6 months in the International Space Station with his team conducting “over 250 research investigations & technology demonstrations that can only be performed in...space.”8
Preparation with fellow astronauts, including a Russian cosmonaut, is spread over 2 years, including time in Russia, to enhance teamwork, and, the article notes, language is one challenge.
The commander says they really “are learning the language of spacecraft.” “With the amount of time the crew spends together . . . [before] their launch, a bond develops . . . they develop a blend of nonverbal communication, anticipation & trust.”9
How do we, how can we develop
& enhance verbal &
anticipation & trust?
Think of the bond we have in worship. Like the reality Peter, John & James see on the mountain, our worship “fundamentally is about the definition of reality,” as John Ortberg says in If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat:10
“[In] worship, at its heart,
we magnify God.”11
"In our daily life's distractions, we may tend to see God like looking through the wrong end of a telescope [very small & distant.]"12
“In worship [we] declare...God is real...our perception of reality is changed, ... sharpened...[We] remember...reality is more than what [we] can see & touch.”13
Like the reality of seeing 16 sunrises
& 16 sunsets in 24-hours
[which most of us will never experience],
reality is more than we can see & touch.
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
DeMoss, Michael C., J.D. Bible Briefs of the Old and New Testaments: The Bible Made Easy. Minneapolis: Light & Life Publishing. 1999.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Live. New York: Continuum. 2008.
Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2007.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation.New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001.
Smith, Robert Lawrence. A Quaker Book of Wisdom: Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense. New York: Harper. 1998.
Thompson, E. Scott II. “Commander Feustel prepares for third mission to space.” SigEp Journal. Summer 2017. Vol. 114. No. 2.
1 Jewish Study Bible. P. 191.
2 DeMoss, Michael C., J.D. Bible Briefs of the Old and New Testaments. P. 120.
3 Note: Aug. 6 is the day we commemorate Jesus' Transfiguration. It falls on a Sunday in an odd sequence of years. Internet search shows it was on Sunday in 1972, '78, '89, 2000, 2006 & now.
4 Scripture quoted by: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke.P. 123.
5 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 1028. The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1109.
6 Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust. P. 260.
7 Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically. Pp. 77-80.
8 Information from cover story by E. Scott Thompson II. SigEp Journal. Pp. 24-25. [My husband's fraternity.]
9 Ibid. P. 25.
10 Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. P. 201.