Readings – Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; II Corinthians 3: 12-4:4; Luke 9: 28-43a
It was once said that all wars do the same thing —
they grab – they destroy – and the victors keep.
Grab—Destroy – Keep.
Russia is now grabbing parts of Ukraine. Russia is now destroying Ukrainian communities, businesses, homes, and families, too. Russia is hoping to keep formerly Ukrainian communities, businesses, homes, and families.
Our Gospel reading according to St. Luke for this morning shows a holy way of living that directly contradicts the present actions of Russia. Let’s skip over the story of the Transfiguration for now and look at the second part of our reading. Here it is from another perspective, that of the Message.
When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them. A man called out from the crowd, “Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He’s my only child. Often a spirit seizes him. Suddenly he’s screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black-and-blue before it leaves…. [Jesus said] “bring your son here”. While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground, and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the foul spirit gone, healed the boy, and handed him back to his father. They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness, God majestic greatness.
Jesus received the young boy presented to him by his father. Jesus blessed the young boy – “ordered the foul spirit gone, healed the boy”. Jesus then gave the young boy back to his father.
There is a pattern here that we have heard before in the Gospel according to St. Luke.
In chapter 5: 12-14 – a leper approached, Jesus touched him, and the man returned to his former life in the community.
In chapter 6: 17-26 – a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus, and lowered by his friends through the roof. Jesus addressed him in the midst of the crowd, “Take up your bed and go home”. And the man picked up his bed and walked home.
In chapter 6: 6-11 – a man with a withered right hand (perhaps from a stroke) approached Jesus. Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand”, and the hand was restored to full use.
In chapter 9: 16 – the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus was presented with five loaves and two fish. He blessed them. He broke them into pieces. They were distributed, and all were fed with twelve baskets left over.
Jesus received what was offered, blessed what was offered, gave thanks for what was offered, and sent back to the community what was presented. All were transformed, healed, free, and renewed.
This is the Jesus Way, the Transformative Jesus Way. This is the way Jesus changes lives. This is the way Jesus changes the world, one action at a time. Jesus takes what is offered. Jesus blesses the offering. Jesus gives it back; he returns the blessed offering. And this is how the People of Jesus change lives. This is the way the People of Jesus change the world, one action after another.
Now we are ready to return to the first part of our Gospel reading for today. When Jesus was praying “the appearance of his face changed”. Also, we heard from the first reading from Exodus that after talking with God the face of Moses glowed. When we connect with God, in doing Jesus’ work, in prayer, in conversation, we are changed, and our faces are changed. We have seen people whose faces glow when they are overwhelmed with love, overwhelmed with joy, overwhelmed with goodness. Think of a bride and groom at their marriage; think of parents at the birth of a child; think grandparents playing with grandchildren. When we are the people God created us to be, when we are fully living into our calling to be God’s people – we glow from the inside out! The goodness, the love, within us breaks through the surface.
Let’s put this together. When we receive, when we bless, when we give back as Jesus did, we the People of God, we glow with goodness.
Now the final piece. We also glow when we see that glowing center within each other – even when the other does not see it at that moment within themselves. In the Gospel reading for today, God saw that inner glow in Peter, James, and John thought they were bumbling about on the ancient mountain top. They did not know how to respond as Jesus was transfigured that day. God said in effect –
I know your hearts are good, even if your words aren’t quite there yet. Hey, you guys, this is my son, my chosen. No need for monuments here. Just listen and learn from him.
Then they went back down the mountain to continue to serve alongside Jesus—to receive what was offered, to bless, and to return what was offered to those who offered. Peter, James, and John were not quite ready to outwardly glow, yet God saw within them their goodness and their ability to walk the Way of Jesus.
I must say that within each one of us is that core of goodness that can blossom into fully glowing as we receive, as we bless with Jesus, and as we give people back their health, their lives, and their calling.
The Way of War is taking, destroying, and possessing.
The Way of Jesus is receiving what is offered, blessing with Jesus, and returning to the givers what was offered.
Friends, let your goodness shine forth (don’t be like Moses and hide it with a veil) and look for that core goodness in others.
Receive offerings, bless the giver and the gift, and return all for the betterment of all creation.