Transfiguration of Our Lord  /  February 22, 2009  /  Resurrection Lutheran Church

Text:  Mark 9: 2 –9  /  Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley  /  Title: If We Can Only Imagine

If ever there was a mountain top experience that felt like heaven had opened up it’s doors and rolled out the red carpet…surely, this is the day.   We in the church have come to call this day…the Transfiguration of our Lord…the mother of all epiphanies.   A day when the space between heaven and earth became so thin that it was hard to distinguish where one ended and the other began.    

That’s the thing about epiphanies…those mountain top experiences that exceed all of our combined imaginations.   For the life of us, we would love to experience them all the time…going from one happy moment to the next never really expecting the high to end.    But you and I both know that that would be living a lie.   This side of heaven…epiphanies tend to be rare, or so we’ve been led to believe, causing us to look the other way…even when one may very well be staring us in the face.

In Mark’s Gospel, it is not by accident that in the verses immediately preceding today’s lesson, Jesus has for the very first time predicted that he will be going to Jerusalem to die.   It is news that the disciples do not want to hear, especially Peter.    Is it any wonder then, that when Peter suddenly finds himself a witness to something so completely upbeat and positive about Jesus that he literally cannot contain himself.    He says the first thing that pops into his head…even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense to do.   

All of a sudden, Peter and the other disciples are forced to “see” Jesus in a completely different light.     Take for example the fact that Mark records Peter as saying Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  

When I read that, I thought about the time Pastor Jim washed something red with some of our white clothes…only to turn them pink instead.    Needless to say…bleach has become our friend.   And now…our clothes are no longer pink, and the whites…are white.     To be “dazzling”, I suspect Mark means something that can not be found this side of heaven.     Which is precisely, Peter’s point.  

We can only imagine what it would mean for us to suddenly find ourselves in the presence of Jesus…and realize that we are also in the presence of someone not of this world.   What would we do?    How would our behavior be changed?    Like the song says:             ‘Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?

                Will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of You be still?

                Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall?

                Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

                                            I can only imagine.

Today we find ourselves at a transition point…as we move from the season of Epiphany into the season of Lent.    Which is my way of saying that after today’s mountain top experience…we must return to the valley where life is generally lived.      It was in that context that Jesus had given explicit orders to the disciples not to tell anyone about their experience on the mountain…that is, until after his resurrection.     The suggestion being that the disciples will not understand the moment of glory until they experience Jesus’ passion.   

So it is for us.    Our peak experiences in life are always set in context of our low moments.    Of course we want our lives to be exciting and full of joy all the time.    Why does there have to be down times?  Why can’t life just be one joyful holiday after another?    

What Peter and the other disciples had to learn was that this life was never meant to be one continuous mountaintop high.    Mountaintop experiences often occur only in relationship with the valleys of life.    As a matter of fact, it is in the valleys of life that most of us grow.

Think back to a time when you had to wrestle with something you did not want to deal with in the first place?    The death of a loved one, a physical illness you never saw coming, alienation from a family member, a failure of some kind.    These are all things that none of us wants to deal with…and yet, when we face them and struggle with them, we will find that we will grow.    Bringing me to a truism that needs to be heard by everyone here today:  the mountaintop highs come only as a result of our trip through several of life’s valleys.    In the hard times we gain the strength to have the really good times.

The story is told of a scientist who was interested in collecting cocoons and watching them hatch.   One day, he and a friend were watching a large cocoon hatch its new life.    The cocoon jerked and moved about for what seemed like an awful long time.    Finally the scientist became impatient.   He cut a small hole in the cocoon in order to ease and speed up the process of the moth’s hatching.   

Sure enough, very soon a beautiful giant moth emerged from that small hole.   And even though the scientist and his friend enjoyed the moth’s beauty, in the weeks to come they began to notice that this moth never learned to fly.      The moth had been denied the opportunity to develop its strength by breaking out of the cocoon.  

Meaning…the difficult periods of our lives may be where we gain our strength.  If we are ever to fly to one of the soaring peaks of life, it will be because of the strength we have gained crawling out of the valleys.   Thanks be to God…Jesus has promised to be with us in both places.   If…we can only imagine.     Amen