Faith United Methodist Church

February 7, 2016

Transfiguration Sunday

Rev. Kristabeth E. Atwood

Scripture: Luke 9:28-43a, Exodus 34:29-35

Prayer of Illumination:

Lord, it is good to be here ~ to hear your word, to share your story. Help us see your Son for who he really is. Help us listen to him, receive his forgiveness, and walk in his light. In His name we pray. Amen.

Sermon: How Overwhelmed Are You?

How overwhelmed are you? Overwhelmed with work. Overwhelmed with life. Overwhelmed with family. Overwhelmed with health issues. Overwhelmed with finances………….

The word overwhelm has several definitions including:

~ to overcome completely in mind or feeling

~ to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush:

~ to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters or debris

~ to load, heap, or treat with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything

An excessive amount of anything…..stress, deadlines, paperwork, commitments, guilt, remorse, shame. Being overwhelmed often takes on a negative association. But what about being overwhelmed with good things? Overwhelmed with beauty? Overwhelmed with love? Overwhelmed with joy?

Let’s take a look at the scripture for today.   The Transfigurtion. The disciples, with Jesus on the mountain, encounter miraculous shining lights, a visit from Moses and Elijah, and a heavenly voices. It is magical. It is wondrous. Perhaps it is even overwhelming. Later in life Peter refers to his time with Jesus on the sacred mountain writing, “…we were eyewitnesses to his majesty.”

Today is the last Sunday in the Season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season of light and during it we celebrate the many ways God is made known in the world. Truth is, I’m kind of sad to see it end. We get to have some fun in Epiphany. There are wise men and baptisms and weddings. In the words of Thomas Merton, “We live in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time.” Epiphany is the season we celebrate this shining. Yet this Wednesday we embark on the season of Lent. Lent is a very different season. It is a darker season…a wilderness season….one of penitence and preparation…and one that ends at the cross. Meaningful and sacred in a different way.

In Epiphany we celebrate the joy God brings into our lives. At the cross we realize the pain that we can cause each other. We see sin at work and it is undeniable. So maybe that’s why we need the Transfiguration. The shining lights, the voice from heaven. Preacher Phyllis Kersten reminds us of God’s words on the mountain, “Listen to Jesus, God says. We will hear Jesus saying that he will be with us in the wilderness and in all the exits and exoduses of our lives.” The Transfiguration allows us to journey through Lent with a glimmer of hope. The Transfiguration points to what happens after the cross. The Transfiguration looks ahead to the empty tomb in all it’s joy and glory.

So what exactly happened on that mountain that day? Honestly, we’ll never know for sure. It’s beyond explanation. But there is one thing we do know. Jesus’ face and his clothes shone with the glory of God. Amazingly, his shining appearance was accompanied by Moses and Elijah (two giants of the Hebrew faith) and the voice from heaven ~ God’s own voice ~ rang clear. But it all ended as quickly as it began. The scripture tells us, “When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” And the three mountain climbers came down changed men.

Peter, James and John had an amazing, once in a lifetime experience on the mountain. An overwhelming experience of the glory of God. Peter later wrote about Jesus, “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the majestic glory…We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” It would be nice if we could all have such clear cut experiences of the divine. But even if we don’t see shining lights and hear heavenly voices, there may be experiences in our lives we can point to as glorious.   There may be moments we recall when we know we have been overwhelmed by the glory of God.

The people of Moses’ day new what it was to be overwhelmed by the glory of God…..

Today we don’t have the benefit – or the challenge – of being so directly confronted with the glory of God. For us it may be as simple as an awareness that comes to us in the night, letting us know that we are not alone. It may come in the words of a friend or coworker or church member who encourages us to do something we never considered before.  It may come to us in a glorious sun set or a glimpse of the eternal in the world around us. Overwhelmed with beauty. Overwhelmed with love. Overwhelmed with joy.

As we close out this season of Epiphany we have some preparing to do.   We have a long journey ahead of us and it isn’t going to be easy. Part of that preparation involves identifying the sources of light in our lives. Where do you experience God’s light ~ God’s presence most strongly? How have you been overwhelmed by that light? What would you identify as the life-changing experiences of your life? How can you hold on to those experiences as we journey into Lent?

So how overwhelmed are you? Are you overwhelmed by work or stress or finances or family demands or health issues. Maybe….and that’s okay. But are you also overwhelmed by love and beauty and joy and the glory of God? I hope so…. Because that kind of “overwhelmed” can help us get through the tougher stuff – can help us get through the wilderness.

On this Transfiguration Sunday, as we prepare for Lent, may we all pray for a glimpse of who Jesus really is…. For in the words of Matthew Henry, “Prayer is a transfiguring, transforming duty which makes the face to shine.” Amen.