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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Change You Can Believe In

2017-02-26 Matthew 17:1-9 Change You Can Believe In

Second Lesson Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

   A year ago, about this same Sunday, we read this same passage. 
   Every year, we read the Transfiguration on the same day, the last Sunday before Lent.
   Every year, we mark the end of Ordinary Time by doing the exact same thing.
   It doesn't change.
   You remember?
   Probably not. 
   That's the thing about not changing. 
   You don't notice it.
   You expect it. You like it.
   And yet, Jesus changed.
   Before the disciples' eyes, Jesus changed.
   He changed from being the Jesus of their ordinary times to the Jesus of all-times, glorified by God as the Christ and Savior.
   We – are ordinary people.
   And yet at the same time, God gives us gifts to do extraordinary things.
   God changes us.
   You are God's beloved.
   We are God's beloved children.
   And if you don't think so, I invite you in this ordinary time, to change your mind.
   Jesus changed.
   The Gospel According to Matthew says: 
   "He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white."
   Now, you can spend a lot of time trying to figure out the special effects.
   It was amazing.
   It was scary.
   We can imagine how it looked.
   Maybe like something out of a science fiction movie.
   But really, the how is not the wow.
   Jesus changed.
   People change.
   But not often as dramatically as Jesus did that day.
   And, ordinarily, not so fast.
   Think back to a year ago, late February, early March.
   How old were you? That changed.
   How else were you?
   Can you remember?
   There's a church down the road from our home that has the most unique signs.
   Very creative.
   I'm guessing the preacher is not in charge of them.
   A couple of weeks ago, the sign said:
   "A year from now you will weigh less or you will weigh more than you do today." – Dr. Phil
   I'm not sure what Dr. Phil meant by that.
   I'm also not sure why the church would put that on its sign.
   But it was a church sign and it made me think and that's abnormal.
   Not ordinary.
   Let's start there, because you probably know this.
   Do you weigh more than you did last year at this time or do you weigh less?
   (Done quit preachin' and gone to meddlin'.)
   Maybe Dr. Phil is wrong and you weigh exactly the same.
   Are you wearing different pounds?
   Are you wearing the same clothes you were last year?
   Are you wearing the same T-shirts you wore ten years ago?
   Can you?
   Should you?
   Is it time for a change?
   Some people look different every time you see them.
   Their hair is longer or shorter, a different style or a different color.
   Maybe there's less hair.
   You know what they say: "Hair today, gone tomorrow."
   It's relatively easy to make exterior changes.
   All you need is a good stylist or a willing doctor.
   It's kind of like personal special effects.
   You can do dramatic change and get Wows.
   But the wows wear off after a few viewings.
   Before long, the changes are the new normal.
   Your grandkid has pink hair. Eh.
   So, how HAVE you changed since last year?
   Have other people noticed?
   Have you taken the time to notice?
   Are the changes surprising?
   Because change can sneak up on you.
   Like when your husband shaves his beard and you can't figure out what's different.
   But maybe it's not them, it's you.
   You wake up one morning and look in the mirror and say, "Wow. I guess I have changed.
   When did that happen?" 
   You weigh less or you weigh more.
   You're grumpier or you're happier.
   You're more optimistic or more hopeless.
   You're more stubborn or you're more patient.
   You're older.
   You didn't plan to be.
   You just are.
   Most of us, if we change at all, don't notice it until after.
   What is this? When did this happen?
   Jesus changed. Quickly. Dramatically.
   Jesus changed and the disciples saw it the moment it happened.
   It scared them to death.
   And then Jesus told them not to tell anybody about it, not yet.
   Why not?
   Maybe because dramatic, sudden change isn't believable.
   It's not ordinary.
   And goodness knows, we do love the ordinary.
   We might want things to be better, but we sure don't want them to change.
   Have you noticed how every political party is always the party of change?
   Our last President ran on Change we can believe in.
   Our current President wants to change America back to being great again.
   Nobody ever had the slogan, "I promise not to change a thing." 
   "If you're unemployed, you'll stay unemployed.
   If you don't have medical insurance, you're not getting it."
   Nooo. They always promise change. 
   Change to, change back, but always change.
   Then they get elected and find out change is hard.
   People yell at you when you change things.
   Change too much and people yell at you.
   Change too little and people yell at you.
   No matter what you do, people yell at politicians.
   That never changes.
   Change, even personal change, is political.
   Not in a Democrat-Republican way.
   Change is always political because it rearranges our alliances.
   We gain friends.
   We lose friends.
   We make family members angry.
   Or we make them very grateful.
   There are always plusses and minuses to change.
   There are gains.
   But there are sacrifices, too.
   On the mountaintop, when Jesus was changed, when his shining glory was revealed, it might have looked like everything was to be gained.
   Here he was, standing, glowing in the tradition of the greatest of the greatest – Moses, Elijah, the heroes of the heroes of his people.
   Jesus changed – from ordinary human to superhuman, from Clark Kent to Superman.
   All was gain.
   All was glory.
   "This is my Son, the Beloved! Listen to him!" the voice from heaven echoed and shook.
   Oh wow, oh wow! 
   "Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?" (MSG)
   In other words, let's keep this exactly as it is right now.
   Let's preserve the moment.
   Let's memorialize how great it is to win! 
   Don't change a thing! 
   But the disciples didn't get it.
   They didn't get that with every gain there's also sacrifice, 
   always, sacrifice.
   And I think that's why Jesus told them not to tell anybody about this.
   Because even though they're seeing a teaser trailer of Jesus's glory, they're not going to see it again until after a horrible sacrifice.
   Transfiguration Sunday is the prelude to Lent.
   Lent is the prelude to Jesus's Crucifixion.
   Yes, there will be Easter.
   Jesus will be raised, Jesus will be born again, Jesus will be glorified, but not on this side of the cross.
   Jesus's change is not possible without sacrifice.
   Without his sacrifice.
   I think we forget that.
   We kind of tune out the crucifixion because, you know, death is scary and graveyards are creepy and Jesus is way too nice to wish anything bad upon.
   We want Jesus to change, but we'd prefer it were sacrifice-free.
   The problem is, it just doesn't work that way.
   It didn't work that way for Jesus.
   And it doesn't work that way for us.
   Think about the times when you, personally, have chosen change.
   What did you sacrifice?
   Maybe you decided to change what you put in your body.
   Fried food, chocolate, alcohol, nicotine, or some other controlled substance.
   Maybe you decided to change how you make a living, how you pay the bills.
   Maybe you decided to change whether you go through life with a partner or without.
   But no matter what you chose to change, for good or for bad, meaningful change always, always requires some sort of sacrifice.
   Change always affects more than you.
   It's political.
   You never change alone.
   Nobody changes alone.
   Change is political.
   Like those wonder-drugs they advertise on TV, there may be gains, but there are always side effects.
   Sometimes life-threatening side effects.
   And that's scary.
   Change is scary.
   After Jesus was transfigured, after Jesus changed, the disciples, who at first thought this was just the bees' knees, were scared to death.
   ..they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
   But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
   Choosing change, choosing to move yourself beyond what's ordinary for you to something else, can be terrifying, even life-threatening.
   Jesus knows that.
   We worship a God who knows that.
   The Holy Spirit doesn't blow through your life without uprooting some long-standing growth.
   Is that good?
   Is that bad?
   I don't know.
   But it is sacrificial.
   Before we can take anything else on, we have to let something go.
   That's just the nature of change.
   Jesus knows that.
   He physically knows it and he literally shows us, come Easter.
   ..they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
   But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
   So here at the end of Ordinary Time, Jesus shows his disciples a glimpse of the extraordinary.
   Forty more days and they'll get much more than a glimpse.
   But it's going to take time.
   It's going to take them some time to get used to the change.
   We are God's children.
   We are all God's children.
   We are ordinary people, doing ordinary things, making ordinary choices, usually without even thinking about it.
   Like Katy Perry says, "Stumbling around like a wasted zombie." 
   We're on autopilot most days.
   But there will come a day when God will set before us a choice, a change.
   It might be a change for the better.
   It might be a change for the best-ever.
   But it's going to come at some cost.
   It always does.
   There will be some sort of sacrifice.
   The Holy Spirit has put within you a vision of glory.
   It might be deep down.
   It might be hidden.
   But you know it's there.
   You are meant for more than your ordinary.
   Because you're a child of God.
   You're meant for God's extraordinary.
   What that is, God only knows.
   But you weren't given a glimpse of Christ's glory for nothing.
   Change awaits.
   Change is coming.
   You'll be scared.
   But you won't be alone.
   Jesus changes. But he doesn't abandon.
   And maybe someday instead of seeing the change, we'll open our eyes and see Jesus.