Transfigured…with Jesus…Seeing Jesus…in glory

Theme:  “We go on a journey with Jesus in Luke’s gospel….chapter 9.
It is a journey with Jesus that grounded my sabbatical time.”

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has looked favorably on God’s people and redeemed them,” Luke 1:68.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior,” Luke 1:46.

TEXTS: Luke 9: 28-36 Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain (include vv. 1-17, 18-27)
Psalm 66 (Children’s time) and 63 (in sermon)

Zechariah and Mary sing words of praise to God for sending Jesus into the world.
They are sung and prayed by God’s people across the ages.
We pray them daily in monastic morning and evening prayer.

I greet you with Zechariah and Mary’s praise which have come to mean so much to me on my sabbatical journey with the monastic community. I am grateful for this sabbatical gift as a season of prayer.
Even more I am grateful to be here with you again.
I thank God for you and offer my deepest gratitude to Christ, to my family,
to you my sisters and brothers in the church.
I am especially grateful for our life together as SMC, PNMC, MCUSA, MWC.
I am deeply grateful for the Pastoral team: Amy, Melanie, Jonathan, Marilyn, Beth.
I am grateful for our SMC staff: Marion, Linda, Marsha!
I thank all of you for your presence and for offering your gifts in so many ways in the church. We are the living breathing visible body of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Journeying anew with Jesus – Luke 9

We go on a journey with Jesus in Luke’s gospel….chapter 9.
It is a journey with Jesus that grounded my sabbatical time.
In this story we see Jesus’ glory without hearing a word from Jesus.
Jesus is preparing his disciples for the journey.
He sends the disciples out to be and bring good news of God’s reign in Jesus.
What are they to take with them on this journey? Anyone remember? Nothing!
No staff, no bag, no bread, no money, not even extra clothes (9:3).
I took as little as possible to Iraq and more than I needed on sabbatical.
But I don’t know what it is to trust God and take nothing for the journey.
Jesus feeds thousands of people and Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah.
Then Jesus spoke to their hearts with the heart of his message – heartfelt yet hard words!
‘If you want to be my follower, you must deny yourself, take up the cross and follow me.
…..if you loose your life for my sake you will save it.’ Luke 9: 23-25.
Luke 9: 28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings
Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.
And while [Jesus] was praying,
the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two people, Moses and Elijah, talking to [Jesus].
They appeared in glory and were speaking of [Jesus] departure,
which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep;
but since they had stayed awake,
they saw [Jesus] glory and the two men who stood with [Jesus].
Just as they were leaving [Jesus],
Peter said to Jesus,
‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’
—not knowing what he said.
While [Peter] was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them;
and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’
When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Jesus’ Transfiguration Revealed Again on Sabbatical

Three places in Jesus’ transfiguration came to life for me on sabbatical.
The three revelations for me in the story are:
first, the rhythm of prayer on the journey with Jesus, at the beginning;
second, Peter’s speaking without knowing what he was saying, in the middle;
and third, the call to listen and the voice of silence at the end.
There is much more to this story but these were touchstones for me.

First, the journey and the rhythm of prayer
As we just heard the story begins: Now about eight days after these sayings.
So it isn’t the beginning even though it is the beginning of this gospel story.
What had Jesus just said? Anyone remember?
A key teaching by Jesus to prepare for this journey comes in hard words:
to follow Jesus means taking up the cross daily; to have life means to loose life.
Jesus names the difficult journey ahead of him, a journey that includes us.
If that doesn’t call us to prayer nothing will.

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

It took a month to really settle into the rhythm of life on sabbatical.
In January my journey took me to Saint John’s, Iraq, home, and back to Saint John’s.
Then I settled into a life of prayer and reflection.
This rhythm of daily prayer: 7:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 7:00 p.m. and daily Eucharist,
is the primary rhythm for each day in monastic life as it was for me on sabbatical.
It is a great gift to live this rhythm of worship four times for two hours each day.
That rhythm of prayer is not to separate prayer from work – now we pray now we work.
It is to integrate prayer and life more fully.
A monastic motto is (in Latin): Ora et Labora – prayer and labor, prayer and work.
When we are disciplined in prayer then prayer and work become interwoven.
Prayer is our work and work is done prayerfully.

My primary purpose on sabbatical was to pray daily with the monastic community. Everything else was added gift and blessing.
One of those added gifts and blessings was exploring the Eucharist.
I was reading and reflecting from the Eucharist more than about the Eucharist.

Our story with Jesus continues:
And while [Jesus] was praying,
the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

The disciples saw Jesus in a new light. They would slowly begin to see Jesus anew.

This takes me to my most dramatic encounter with the transfigured Jesus on sabbatical.
It was only later that I connected seeing the transfigured Jesus in Rutba, Iraq — twice.
On Sat March 29, 2003, after our accident in the desert, an Iraqi doctor saved our lives.
I was carried out of the clinic on a stretcher by several men.
They stood by the vehicle holding my stretcher preparing to move me to the middle seat.
The bright afternoon desert sun shone in my face.
One of the men who carried me saw it and raised his hand to shield the sun from my eyes.
As we looked into each others eyes, his smile gave me great comfort.
Even more in his glowing face bathed by the sun I saw Jesus’ transfigured in glory.
I don’t remember being placed in the car.
I do remember him coming around to the other door and leaning down
and kissing me on both cheeks and saying, ‘God will take care of you.’

On anther Saturday nearly seven years later, January 16, 2010,
our Rutba Peace team was back in Rutba, Iraq.
We were in the hospital guest lounge when a familiar yet unknown face appeared.
With a beaming smile, Sa’ady Mesha’al Rashid, through Sami, our interpreter,
told me how he had carried me from the car into the clinic
when we arrived that Saturday seven years earlier.
He said, “You were collapsing, so I carried you.”
Again in an Iraqi man who had carried me I saw the glowing face of Jesus.
I hadn’t remembered Sa’ady carrying me.
As soon as I saw him my body began remembering before my mind comprehended.
My body’s remembering before and beyond my mind’s comprehension
has become very significant not only for this specific encounter with Sa’ady.
During these past months I was exploring how our worship and communion train our body’s memory to see and be Jesus — our personal body and the communal body of Christ. This encounter with Sa’ady embodied this reality for me. Our remembering is not just with our minds but with our hearts and bodies too.

Second, as the story unfolds, another entry point appeared, also about knowing.
Peter saw Jesus in glory and said, “Let us build three dwellings for Jesus, Moses, & Elijah.” The gospel adds these telling words: Not knowing what he said.
On sabbatical I was venturing into a new “world” beyond our usual ways of knowing.
It is tremendously exciting for me and also a little terrifying.

The gospel goes on, ‘a cloud came and overshadowed them and they were terrified.’
At times the journey with Jesus is like being in a cloud – “a cloud of unknowing”
To use the title of a 14th century spiritual classic by an unknown spiritual guide.
The cloud of unknowing can be terrifying to we who depend upon our ways of knowing.

A voice came from that cloud of unknowing: God’s voice telling us to listen.
‘This is my Own, my Chosen; listen to him!’
The voice isn’t calling us to listen to just any voice we hear,
but to listen to the voice of Jesus whom we follow.
Listen to Jesus – before all, in all, above all.

The first word of the Rule of Benedict that has guided monastics for 1500 years is Listen!
To listen is central to following Jesus on the journey and to being the body of Christ.
It is difficult to sort out many competing voices. It takes endless careful listening.

Meaningful Monastic Memories:
Our summer worship theme is “Bringing the gifts that differ.”
On sabbatical I identified several theses that I will continue to explore.
On of them is that giving and receiving gifts that differ is essential in the church today.
We cannot be who we are in the church without this exchange of gifts with the other.

There were many other gifts I received and hopefully offered on sabbatical.
One is the joy of new friends. Let me share two new friends.
Sister Delores Dufner, OSB, Saint Benedicts monastery….musician/songwriter:
God, You Call Us to This Place (Transfiguration)
Sing a new Church
Brother John Hanson, OSB, Cowboy John, classical and folk guitarist
Leaving after Eucharist at noon on Saturday May 29.
Sung Psalm refrain: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord our God. Psalm 63:
Monastic Brother John playing classical and folk guitar…
Last song: “Swing Low Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home.”
I was ready to come home here to you and to the Folk Group for this worship

Mary and Zechariah’s Song

I close with these closing words of prayer and promise from Mary and Zechariah over Jesus’ coming into the world.

“God has helped God’s people to remember God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Sarah and to their descendents forever.” Luke 1:54-55

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

May their song be ever in our hearts and on our lips and lived in our life together as the body of Christ! AMEN