In the late ‘60s
Malvina Reynolds, Alan Greene, and Harry Belafonte
wrote the hit song Turn around:
“Where are you going my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby my own,
Turn around and you’re two, turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door.”
We know exactly what that kind of transformation is.
We’ve been through it.
It’s a mother going from the pain of birthing
to the joy of holding her baby.
It’s seeing the difference between
the ambulance ride to the hospital
and the ride home to the family.
And it’s not just in human beings:
caterpillars turn into butterflies, and eggs hatch into chicks.
This past week I spotted the green blades of daffodils
pushing their way through the drifts of brown leaves
in the garden.
We see transfiguration all around us.
Just as important as the story of Jesus’ transfiguration
is the story of transfiguration of the DISCIPLES
through THEIR EXPERIENCE of Jesus.
Matthew paints it in a mythical scene—
the high mountain that stands for God’s presence,
the bright light,
the intimate connection with Moses the lawgiver
and Elijah the prophet,
the idea of setting up tents
like the ones that sheltered the Israelites
on their journey to the promised land.
Matthew uses those references to Jewish history
to communicate the disciples’ growing vision of Jesus
as much, much more than a carpenter from Nazareth.
They understand that they are to LISTEN to him.
It’s like God is speaking.
Matthew follows this transfiguration scene
with nine chapters of parables and healings,
each piece showing another detail
that confirms the disciples’ understanding of Jesus
as the “chosen one,” the “long-awaited Messiah.”
The disciples come to the understanding
that Jesus is the beloved Son of God.
They are called to FOLLOW him.
Like Abram and Sara, who are called away
from the security of country, people, and parents...
like Paul, who is called from persecuting Christians...
like their ancestors in faith...
Peter, James, and John, are called to leave everything
and walk in the way of Jesus.
We answer calls in our own lives.
Maybe we look at our job
and dream of something more fulfilling.
My brother Bob saw his life as working in an office 50 weeks a year
so he could go fishing for two weeks.
So he walked away
from that high-paying corporate management job
to start a charter fishing business.
Or maybe we look around and see that important parts of our life
are being put on the back burner.
My brother Bill turned down the Houston Oilers and the Buffalo Bills
so he could put his highest priority on his young family.
You all do it, sometimes in a big way,
but more often in the ordinary daily choices you make.
Just look around this room, this high mountain in Toledo.
Why do Tom and Mary Jean pack up
and go all over God’s green earth to visit their kids,
or see their grandkids graduate, or play a basketball game,
or get confirmed?
Why does Megan spend all that time preparing classes,
teaching, researching, writing, and meeting with students?
Why did Fidelis go to Haiti to work with the poorest of the poor?
Why does Sue, with that nagging back pain,
come here week after week, all the way from Whitehouse,
to minister to us with her music?
Why is Sallie planning her retirement
around involvement with social justice organizations?
Why do Anne and Tom work
to bring social justice activists like Kathy Kelly to speak here?
Why work for peace and justice, why teach,
why advocate for a clean Lake Erie, why Tree Toledo,
why volunteer in a soup kitchen or a pantry,
why haul Meals on Wheels to seniors,
why go to City Council hearings, why go to Dining for Women, why help the downtrodden
get a driver’s license or a birth certificate…
the list goes on and on.
More than that,
why aren’t the first responders rushing in here every weekend
when YOUR bright light is sending out a glow all over town?
Like Peter, I should build tents for each one of you
because it’s obvious that the spirit of God is in you.
You shine like the sun!
Thanks be to God!