Getting a Glimpse of Jesus

Mark 9:2-9

Today we celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus. You heard the story read in the Gospel reading this morning. This is a very familiar story. As I contemplated what I could say about it that you might not already have heard, especially if you have been a long time church-goer, I realized that it was more important for you to understand it in terms of "story" rather than theological explanations. So, I'm going to be very Trinitarian and share three stories with you. The stories, through the work of the Holy Spirit, will prepare you to see a transfiguration. A transfiguration is when you see someone for who they really are, beyond what we perceive them to be. Being open to it is up to you. Transfiguration allows one a glimpse beyond what we "see" with our physical eyes. When one experiences such a "glimpse" it is always uplifting, very moving, and it is very hard to bring the reality of the "glimpse of truth" into what we perceive as the reality of our every day lives. And yet, that's what Jesus expects us to do, asks us to do, and what the Holy Spirit will empower us to do-to live our lives out of the knowledge of that truth.

Many of you have watched the Olympics these past weeks. Many of you have watched "American Idol." One of the things that was said of the contestants, especially the ones who weren't quite Olympic medal quality yet, or one's who weren't quite at national recognition for their vocal abilities-one of the things that was said was "she or he has potential. In a couple years they will be taking the world by storm." Can you see the potential in someone-look past the moment and see the potential? Can you see it in the youth of our congregation? Can you see it in the children in your own family? My oldest niece was a screw up in high school and a drop out. Yet she went on to be one of the top computer programmers world-wide after she got her GED and joined the Navy. Somehow we missed seeing that! We missed getting a glimpse of who she really was because we were so caught up in the present picture we all had of her in high school.

The first story. A group of college students was asked to list what they thought were the present "Seven Wonders of the World." Though there were some disagreements, the following items received the most votes: Egypt's Great Pyramids, India's the Taj Mahal, the Panama Canal in Central America, the Empire State Building, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, China's Great Wall, and Stonehenge in Great Britain.

While gathering the votes, the professor noted that one student had not finished her paper yet. So he asked the student if she was having trouble with her list. "Yes, a little," she replied. "I couldn't quite make up my mind because there were so many."

The professor said, "Tell us what you have, and maybe we can help."

The student hesitated, but then she said, "I think the 'Seven Wonders of the World' are: To See, To Hear, To Touch, To Taste, To Feel, To Laugh, To Love." The college classroom was so quiet; no one made any quip or joke about what she had said.

The things we overlook as simple and ordinary and that we take for granted are truly wondrous. The most treasured things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man, and the most wondrous things might not be things we can actually "see" with our eyes. It's only when we look beyond our "seeing" that we truly see, and see the truth beyond our limited perception.

The Second Story. A young woman named Sally relates an experience she had in a seminary class, given by a professor, a Dr. Smith. She says that Dr. Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons.

One particular day, Sally walked into the seminary and knew they were in for a fun day. On the wall was a big paper target and on a nearby table were many darts. Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to put the picture on the target and throw darts at the person's picture.

One of Sally's friends drew a picture of another student who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother, who was always being a little pest. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, who no longer hung around with her and had started hanging around with what she thought was a weird group of students. She put a great deal of detail into her drawing.

The class lined up and one by one put their picture on the target and began throwing darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their pictures and the target were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn, and was filled with disappointment when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats.

As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn't have a chance to throw any darts at her target, Dr. Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus.

A hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered his face and his eyes were pierced.

Dr. Smith said only these words... "In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me." (Matthew 25:40)

No other words were necessary; the students sat in stunned silence, focused only on the picture of Christ.

The Third Story. His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, faded, ripped jeans and wears no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He's kind of esoteric and very bright. He became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a church whose members are well dressed and very conservative. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it.

One day Bill decides to attend worship there. He walks in barefoot, faded, ripped jeans, a T-shirt with holes in it, and wild hair. The worship service has already started and so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is full, but if some people had shifted they could have made space for him, but they didn't; so he can't find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.

Bill gets closer and closer to the front and to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this church before!)

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick. About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, an usher is slowly making his way toward Bill.

The usher is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. He's known to be a godly man, very dignified, very respected by others in the congregation. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking slowly toward Bill, everyone is saying to themselves that you can't blame the usher for what he's going to do. It's his job to keep a certain decorum during worship, not to let things get out of hand. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid squatting on the floor?

It takes a long time for the usher to reach Bill. The church is silent except for the usher's shuffling as he walks with the cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can't even hear anyone breathing. The minister can't really begin his sermon until the usher does what he has to do.

And now they all see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor, and with great difficulty, lower himself and sit down next to Bill to worship with him so he won't be alone. The congregation is stunned, but deeply moved.

When the minister gains control, he says, "What I'm about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget."

What IS it they have just seen? What IS it that you have "seen" in your mind as you listened to the story? What did you "see" that was beyond the story? Be careful how you live. What IS it that people see when they observe your life and actions? When you make it known you're a Christian, someone may be trying to pattern their life after your example. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read. You may be the only glimpse of Christ's teachings they will ever "see."

What is it that you see when you look at another person? Do you see who they really are, or do you see only what ideas you project on them? If it's someone you dislike or with whom you are angry, can you see past that and see the spiritual being they really are? Can you see Christ in them?

Can you allow yourself to get a glimpse of Christ at work here at Trinity? Can you get a glimpse of what Trinity Lutheran has as potential for mission and outreach for the future? Can you get a glimpse of Christ at work in our family and youth ministry to our own church community and to the Taneytown community? You need to be open to the vision. Get a glimpse. Catch the Vision.

Transfiguration is when we see beyond the present reality we have created for ourselves. We see beyond the situation or person we know, or think we know, and for the first time-and probably the only time, because trans-figuration gives us just a glimpse of the truth-we see the Christ at work in that person; we see the Christ at work in this gathered community of believers here at Trinity.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie