Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday

"Rabbi, it is good for us to be here." Mark 9:5

Sisters and brothers in Christ, it's good for us to be here! It's good for us to be here, where Jesus shines, his robes even whiter than those sheets my Swedish grandma washed, ironed, and snapped into position on the beds of her six children.

It's good for us to be here, in this radiant place, this heavenly place, this brilliant place, where bleached and starched white robes won't become stained by the dry, red clay of drought or the bleeding mouth of the woman cowering in the corner.

It's so good to be here, where the down-on-her-luck woman at the shelter, with the bloodshot eyes, pushes aside her empty chili bowl, and lifts her chin to sing about--and to--that sparkling, cleaner-than-snow Jesus, whom she loves. "Je-sus, Je-sus!"

Ah, yes, good to be here, standing near Jaxon. Jaxon, when he spies again-as he does each Sunday--the stained glass image of a resplendent Jesus on the back wall of the church and when he exclaims with an awe-filled, two-year-old voice, "Jesus! Jesus!"

How blessed we are to be here, with these our sister, our brother in Christ. How blessed we are to be here with the others.

The blessing of this Transfiguration Sunday bursts into glory in our lives when we elbow our way in between Jaxon and the woman at the shelter, in between Peter and James and John to see what is happening.

What a sight we all are--our jaws dropping open, our hearts racing, our knees shaking as we deer-in-the-headlights are trapped between wanting to stay and watch, or turn around and run away as fast as we can.

What a sight they are- Elijah, for whom we've held the door open--to no avail--at Passover feast after Passover feast; Moses, on his first visit to the Promised Land, a land from which he was barred; and Jesus, shining like the sun, no shining as the Son, the beloved Son, the cloud-born voice announces, the same voice that shouted this truth out from heaven at Jesus' baptism not so long ago; Jesus, the Son of God, whose identity will in the weeks ahead be announced by a Roman soldier from the occupying force, his hands, no doubt, bloodied by the gruesome wounds in Jesus' hands and feet.

How blessed we are today by the sight of a resplendent Jesus! How fortunate we are that we didn't open our mouths and say something stupid like Peter, who could only stutter on about Jesus, the rabbi, and building booths for everybody.

Good thing we didn't say, "Just a minute, Elijah, Moses, Jesus, while I grab my cell phone for a quick picture. Give me a sec' to call Channel 12! Let me get my camcorder for a film of this stunning moment." Good thing we kept our mouths closed. Or is it?

Is it a good thing that we keep our mouths closed in the face of Jesus' splendor?

Might we not do better to cry out, with Jaxon, "Jesus! Jesus!" Might we not do better to lift our chins and blend our voices with the shaky soprano of the woman at the shelter and sing to the world love songs about and to Jesus?

Is it a good thing that we didn't blather on about building dwelling places for our honored guests? Might we not do better to grab our hammers and saws and hop on a van to Mississippi, so that we can mess up our jeans rebuilding homes in a decaying world that Hurricane Katrina left behind? Might we not do a whole lot better by building, not booths, but places of shelter? Shelter for our singing woman, shelter for the bloody one cowering in the corner, for the cold and starving children and women and men in northwestern Pakistan, shelter for the raped, beaten and terrified refugees from Darfur, for those whose homes in Israel and Palestine and inner city America are not safe, shelter for soldiers everywhere, so that they might beat their machine guns into computers?

Is it a good thing that we keep our mouths closed, our tool boxes shut? Well, is it?

Jesus is quiet. He doesn't spell out the answers for us today, this Transfiguration of Our Lord Sunday. But we know those answers from all the days before this celebration of light and life, this moment of goodness and glory.

It is good for us to be here, bathing in the light of Jesus' glory like northerners in Florida in January, worshiping the sun. It's good for us to be with our sisters and brothers, elbowing in among those who are so much like ourselves.

It's wonderful to hang out with Elijah and Moses, Peter and James and John. It's a blessing to spend time with the folks in our congregations, our families, our friendship circles, folks who cry out, "Jesus!" and then sing of him and to him.

Uhhh, but that is never good enough for You, O Voice from the cloud. You're not content to let us stand here looking up into the clouds. Your voice cries out to us, "Listen to my Beloved Son."

And when we listen to Jesus, we hear: "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again."

When we listen to Jesus, we hear: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all."When we listen, we hear: "The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized."

We listen to the Son, the Beloved, and we hear a clear call to join our hearts with the woman who rings her handbells with great joy so that "Beautiful Savior" can sail out into the church over her chemo-bald head.

When we listen to the Son, we hear a clear call to build a safe place for those in danger.

When we listen to Jesus, we hear him whisper in our ears, we feel him nudge us in the ribs as he says, "Watch Amos." Amos, Amos.

Amos lives in a small village in north central Tanzania. I sat with him and 700 other villagers one Sunday last April under a large tree that shaded us from the hot, African sun. You see, we were too many to fit into the church building of the small Lutheran church. At the right time, Jesus nudged me in the ribs and told me to watch Amos, as he joined the offering procession and came forward with his contribution. I saw his face shine with the light of Christ. I smiled because his smile sparkled with his love of Jesus. I beamed at his joy so radiant that even his threadbare, one-size-too-large suit seemed dazzling. In his hands was one coin for the offering basket. His hands. Ah, his hands. His palms really, since his fingers had been almost totally consumed by the leprosy that ate them up before the missionaries and their medicines arrived.

His offering - one coin - rested on those tiny palms. A small offering - one Tanzanian coin worth almost nothing in our viewpoint, but Amos' coin was an offering of great value since it was almost, if not all, he had. You see, Amos knows the reality of death. He knows what it is to be last of all and servant of all. Amos drinks deeply from Jesus' cup and knows Jesus' baptism, and Amos shines. On stubby feet, his toes eaten too, he shines as he offers himself to Jesus. Amos' life reflects the light of a transfigured Jesus, of a brilliant risen Son.

With Jesus it becomes clear that, we, too, are meant to be transfigured. We are to be transfigured, not as Jesus is, but as his disciples have been, disciples of all times and places, disciples like Amos. We, too, are to wear robes, robes that shine with Jesus' presence in our lives, robes discolored by blood and tears and diapers that need to be changed and chili that has dripped from its Styrofoam bowl on its way to the table in the shelter.

We are to wear robes that are dirtied by hands that clutch them, hands desperate for safety and food and sobriety and hope. We are to wear the robes of justice, the garments of peace.

We, too, are to be dazzling with the light of Christ, as dazzling as a baby's first smile.

We are to be dazzling with light that shines brighter than the explosion of IEDs --Improvised Explosive Devices -- and the implosion of depression.

We are to be dazzling with light that burns holes into the bottles of the alcoholic and the expensive wines of the self-indulgent. We are to be dazzling with light that spotlights abuse, anger and anxiety and then bathes them with peace. We are to be transfigured as the disciples of Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Jesus! Jesus! Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus till the sun goes down. How good it is for us to be here! Amen.