Sermon for Transfiguration

When I was a child, night was a fearsome time for me. I just did not like the dark! When I would awaken in the middle of the night, I would lie there in the darkness, stiff and still in my bed, eyes open wide and searching the room for the monsters I knew to lurking there,- somewhere. My arm could never be allowed to hang over the side of the bed, or the monsters hiding under the bed would be sure to grab unto it and gobble it up. I canít even imagine what other horrible fate may lie in wait from that menacing green scaly horned critter that was probably peaking out from behind my closet door. There in the corner, what was that- I was sure I saw a pair of glowing yellow eyes Ė watching me. Was that a low growl I heard? Finally, unable to bear the fear any longer, in desperation, I would call out in a teeny quavering voice, "Mommy, Daddy, I need a drink of water - please." You see, I didnít want them to have to tell me that it was nonsense to think that I had monsters in my room, because I was absolutely sure there were goblins there. So I had to ask for water instead of telling them about the monsters. My parents would come. They would come into my room and flip on the light switch. Whew! What a wonderful relief! Oh glorious light! As soon as it flooded my room, I could see that there were no monsters hiding there after all. It was sure safe and good in the light. Everything was just as it should be.

Did you ever notice how when you turn on a flashlight in the darkness how the beam of it spreads out into the darkness? Itís beam starts small and grows bigger as it shines out into the darkness. So it is with Jesus the light of the world when He encounters our lives. The light overcomes darkness. When you open a door into a dark room from a lighted hallway, the light from the hallway streams into the darkness of the room. The opposite is not true. Think about it! When you open the door to the darkened room, you donít see the darkness flood into the hallway from the room, do you? No, the light from the hallway floods the dark room. So it is with the spiritual light Jesus brings into our lives. When Jesus fills our lives, his light floods into every part of our being, and illuminates all the monsters hiding there. The light overcomes the darkness.

As many of you know, I have spent some time during many summers in the Arctic North of Canada, teaching Summer Bible School in communities of the North West Territories and Nunavut. I have loved the people there, especially the children. Beautiful, with black hair and dark eyes, they are utterly tactless, downright charming, and so very special to me. But I also feel an exceptional connection to the northern land. It is rugged terrain, exquisitely beautiful in its vastness. Eagles soar over a crystal aqua lake that stretches forever until it meets the strand of scruffy pines that connect the aqua of the lake and the azure of the sky. What an inspiring sight! There I feel such a special closeness to God Ėa pervading sense of oneness with God, nature, and humanity.

During the summer months, the sun never sets. It is the land of the midnight sun. How glorious is the presence of never-ending sunshine. The land and the lake become warm under the rays of the sun. People play and swim, basking in the light. They laugh and talk and shout and sing and dance. They are so invigorated by the sun's rays, they don't waste much time sleeping.

And yet, I know that now in February, in the winter time, this magnificent land that is flooded with light in the arctic summer becomes instead the land of endless darkness. No longer light, but darkness covers their world. Instead of round-the-clock light, cold and darkness now swallow towns and villages, replacing the summerís midnight sun. The exuberance and energy of the summer is replaced with depression and lethargy. The lake freezes over. In the frigid Ė45 degree very dark winter, bears and wolves prowl the blackness of the towns and villages searching for food. Suicide rates climb within the population. Theyíre dealing with the monsters under their beds and in their closets! Very real monsters such as alcoholism and incest, lack of incentive, joblessnessÖ. Darkness. What a dramatic difference there is between light and dark. How different it is when the light is absent from our lives.

Last weekend Ruth and Morgan and I attended Road Trip, the synod youth gathering at Inner Harbor. It was wonderful to see hundreds of teens excited about worshiping God and about sharing that experience with one another. In the closing worship, they had created instruments, circular, with gold foil streamers. As we sang, we blessed one another by 'sprinkling sunshine on each other.' Somewhat like our passing the peace, which is not just a simple greeting or handshake, but we have the opportunity to bestow a blessing on one another, to share God's love and peace. In this way, we share the Light of Christ.

In the classic fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, the book that the Lord Of The Rings trilogy does not cover, Bilbo Baggins and his troop are traveling through a dark, dangerous forest infested with gigantic, poisonous spiders and all sorts of dark critters and creepy-crawly things. Just being in that kind of place was a frightening experience. And each member of the group, especially Bilbo Baggins, wanted to get out of that dreadful forest of darkness. As they traveled on, hoping against hope that the edge of the dangerous forest was near and not having their hopes fulfilled, one of the leaders orders Bilbo Baggins to climb the tallest tree he can find in order to have a look around and see where the dark forest ended.

Reluctantly, Bilbo climbs the tree, with limbs, branches and leaves scratching at him all the way. Several times he nearly falls. Having pushed his way through the forest canopy, he is nearly blinded by the sudden and

intense sunlight. It took some time for his eyes to get used to the light, but once they had, Bilbo found that it was very wonderful and beautiful up there. The canopy above him was the most beautiful blue sky and around him was an ocean of green treetops. After being in the damp darkness below, he enjoyed the sunshine and was able to soak it into his weary, tired and aching bones. The fresh air blew softly in his face and invigorated his

lungs and cleared his mind. What a wonderful place to be! And no doubt, if we could have asked Bilbo Baggins, he would have said, "Yes, 'tis good to be here."

Now, that story is fiction, but it reminds us of a time when three disciples were permitted a view that was extraordinary. What happened on the Day of Transfiguration was real. When Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, He took them out of the dark valleys of this world and up to a high place, a mountaintop, where their eyes would squint at the bright light of the Son of God, who would be transformed before their wondering eyes. It was good that they were there to view this special revelation of God.

Transfiguration is the bridge between Epiphany and Lent. It is the story of those who continue to function as ordinary people and yet are people adopted as Godís children, transformed by the gospel to know both Godís forgiving grace and his terrible righteousness. (Dan Nelson)

The Celtic peoples talk of "thin places" where the distance between heaven and earth seems thin, where it seems easier to connect with God. As I think of my own life and my faith journey, I can recognize the thin moments and thin places for me that have transformed my life, such as the Canadian Arctic experience I mentioned earlier. We call them mountaintop experiences. Interesting that we have the mountain of Transfiguration and then we go into the Valley of Lent. When you attend our Ash Wednesday service this week, you will experience the Valleys of Lent, as that is the theme of our Lenten series this year. God gives us grace that there are just enough mountain peaks to get us through the lonesome and trouble-filled valleys.

Iíve grown up, but monsters are still under my bed, sometimes. Often there is the monster of anxiety and worry waiting to attack, or the goblin of fear or despair. And that green scaly critter in the closet Ė who knows what to expect from him? Is there a critter lurking under your bed just waiting to attack? Whatís worrying you today? What are the goblins in your closet? Tell Jesus about it. Let him transfigure, transform your life. Remember Ė light always overcomes darkness. Jesus is the light that takes away all the monsters from under your bed. His light will flood your life and bring you his peace. Amen.

Read other sermons by Pastor Faye