21 Feb 2016
“Observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17) In the name …
You may have heard this joke before, but if not … A cowboy, who just moved to Wyoming from Texas, walks into a bar and orders three mugs of beer. He sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more. The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, "You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time." The cowboy replies, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is an Airborne Ranger, the other is a Navy Seal, both are serving overseas somewhere. When we all left our home in Texas, we promised that we'd drink this way to remember the days when we drank together. So I'm drinking one beer for each of my brothers and one for myself." The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there. The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He orders three mugs and drinks them in turn. One day, he comes in and only orders two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss." The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eyes and he laughs. "Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explains, "It's just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking." "Hasn't affected my two brothers though.”
Today the church directs us to think about transfiguration, and not only Jesus’ The Transfiguration. That’s why we hear Paul telling us that our own mortal bodies will be transformed into the glorified bodies of heaven. In other words, our own transfiguration. We need to remember this promise because too many people live like this is all that there is. We’re supposed to be people of faith. We’re supposed to believe that we are body and soul. We’re supposed to hope that someday these mortal bodies of ours that catch colds, that break down, that wear down, that get tired and hungry, that someday they will be transfigured into glorified bodies that know none of these things.
This is why we need to take the promise of transfiguration more seriously, which is the opposite of the Baptist-cowboy-story I started with this morning. He’s a Baptist who disavows alcohol because of his religious choice, but still drinks the two beers anyway supposedly for his brothers who aren’t Baptists. There are all kinds of creative ways to get around taking the faith seriously, but are we really fooling anybody? Lent, for example, is a perfect chance to live faith more deliberately, to pay more attention to the promise of transfiguration. The church invites us to come together during these seven weeks on Sundays, but also on Wednesdays and Fridays. And during Lent we are supposed to fast on at least Fridays, and for those who choose on Wednesdays as well. This forces us to think about why our menus have limitations, and that hopefully reminds us about the Passion and the death of Jesus, and that our little Friday sacrifices won’t let us forget the perfect Good Friday sacrifice of Christ. And maybe we gave up something for Lent or added something to our Lenten practice. Again, all of this comes together to remind us that we are body and soul, that we are promised our own transfiguration, that life is more than what is obvious.
Think back to the Bible story of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John are up on that mountain with Jesus. They’re not expecting to witness this grandest of miracles. I think if anything they’re expecting to go up the mountain to be with Jesus while He prays. Jesus takes off to be at prayer on several occasions in the Gospels so this is not out of the ordinary. And on the night before He dies, Jesus takes His disciples with Him as He goes off to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. If this is the custom, then the three disciples may only have been expecting the same when they climbed that mountain with Jesus. And sad to say, but just like in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples give in to their exhaustion, and they begin to fade off into sleep.
The Transfiguration occurs. Jesus’ appearance is transformed from the earthly to the heavenly. Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus. The light and the sounds of this heavenly event awaken the disciples from their sleep. Who knows what they have already missed. They hear God’s voice declare from a cloud that Jesus is His Son. They come back down the mountain and they tell no one. In this account, Jesus doesn’t command their silence. They say nothing because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know exactly what they’ve witnessed. They’ve experienced the completely other and they have no way of understanding it or sharing it. You’ve probably heard accounts of veterans who can’t share their stories with civilians. They’ve experienced such otherness that they can’t even begin to figure out ways to share it. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but Peter, James and John seem to be in a similar quandary. They don’t know how to share what they’ve experienced.
This is where Paul’s words become so important. As people of faith we have the buffer of other people of faith. We can observe what the promise of transfiguration means in their lives and we can draw upon that example. Then our example in turn is out there for somebody else to see. [MILDRED] Sometimes The Transfiguration is too much to handle. It means so much that it can mean nothing because it’s so completely other. And this is why it is essential for us to take our own promise of transfiguration seriously. There is more to life than what is obvious, and the real glory of life is that it is but one part of life everlasting. Let us pray that we take the practice of our faith seriously because of The Transfiguration and the promise of our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo