Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Transfiguration Sunday: Being Resplendent

I read through verse:10. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.”

Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, Amen.
Frankly, sometimes the Bible can be pretty gosh darn weird. Every year, at the end of the season of Epiphany, and on the brink of the season of Lent, we get this strange little story from Matthew, Luke, and this year we hear from Mark– where Jesus - literally - lights up brighter than the Griswold’s house at Christmas. And right now, it kinda looks like it with all this snow!!

But perhaps it’s not quite as weird as we may think. After all, the season of Epiphany is all about light shining in the darkness. It began with the shining of a star high up in the sky, which led distant wise men to a child with the face of God, who would grow up to be the king and savior of all. And so it sort of makes sense that Epiphany ends with that same child, now all grown up, whose clothes and face and whole being are shining dazzlingly bright, high up on a mountaintop.

This is the perfect story to shake us out of our winter doldrums, isn’t it? Forget all that snow and bitter temperatures without Christmas to look forward to, forget the clearance Valentine’s Day candy and the onslaught of President’s Day sales. THIS is a story to get psyched about! Because it isn’t just a story about Jesus. It’s also a story about us. It’s a story… about… you.

For Mark, Jesus’s story begins with his baptism, where the heavens are torn apart and a voice from heaven says, “You are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Doesn’t this sound familiar? Today we find ourselves right in the middle of the story of Jesus that Mark tells, at the event of Jesus’ transfiguration, where Jesus is transformed before his disciples and revealed his true resplendent nature.

Did you catch that word - “resplendent” - in the prayer of the day? I think it’s such a great word: Resplendent – adjective; attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous. Synonyms: splendid, magnificent, brilliant, dazzling, glittering, gorgeous, impressive, imposing, spectacular, striking, stunning, majestic; splendiferous.

Yeah, I think it would be accurate to say that Jesus is splendiferous, as well as resplendent.  … But Jesus wasn’t resplendent of his own doing. Up on that mountain top, God made Jesus resplendent and God called him Beloved, just the same as God did on the day of his baptism.

The day that YOU were baptized, you likely wore a brilliantly white gown – perhaps not quite AS white Jesus’s was. But you might have still had a special glow about you, the glow that comes from being surrounded by the love of your parents, the love of your family, the love of your sponsors and congregation, and the love of God. That day, YOU became beloved, AND YOU became resplendent.

But the glow fades, and life moves on. We grow up, and it becomes easy to think that over time we tend to out-GROW our baptisms, like outgrowing a pair of shoes. But what if our baptisms are something that we are always growing INTO? – sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly over time, sometimes smoothly and sometimes (maybe too often) in fits and starts… hopefully, though, always moving forward, more or less, toward working out what it really means to be BELOVED and RESPLENDENT.

So perhaps THIS is why the baptismal gowns that we put on our babies tend to be much too long for them. As if it’s going to take a little time for them to grow into their baptism and figure out how to wear it. And for most of us, this is a process that we’re still figuring out, year by year, day by day, moment by resplendent, transformational moment.

But just who am I to be resplendent, anyway? Most of the time, I don’t FEEL very resplendent. Being resplendent, LIVING resplendent is kind of uncomfortable, and even scary at times. People notice. Much easier, much more comfortable is it to stay up there on the mountain, where it feels safe. After all, that’s what Peter suggests. He knows full well that the world down there is a very dark and fearful place. Better to dig in a put off dealing with that scary world for as long as possible.

 I think that the poet Marianne Williamson shines a direct spotlight the thing we are ACTUALLY afraid of. She writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” (Here I would add RESPLENDENT and AWESOME) But she goes on: “Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God….We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

I’ll say it again – YOU were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. And how does that happen? Year by year, day by day, moment by resplendent, transformational moment.
Now this moment looks different for everyone. Sometimes they are big, resplendent, beacon-on-the-mountain-top experiences. Other times, it’s more like a small candle that bravely burns in the blackest night. Sometimes you even have lots of these moments. You can have them at five, fifty-five, or a hundred and five. But you all have had them, or will have them if you haven’t already.

And you COULD keep these resplendent moments to yourselves, like a dark little secret. OR you can be like the disciples, and be really bad secret keepers. The disciples in Mark often get a bum rap for being examples of the “what NOT to do” brigade, but THIS TIME I’m telling you to be like them! Blab! Blab like to disciples! Because we wouldn’t be here now, would we, if they hadn’t blabbed about moments like these after Jesus rose from the dead?

Pine Lake Councelor staff '06 (not the year in question) 
So I’m gonna blab for you one of my resplendent- transfiguration-transformation moments. Let me set the scene for you: The summer after my freshman year of college. First week of my first summer of Counselor Staff Training at Pine Lake Lutheran Bible Camp in central Wisconsin. Shy introvert who loved camp but at this point I was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. We were playing team-building games as a staff, and our camp director LOVED to through in a wrench here and there, to make them even more challenging!  you – close your eyes, you can’t see. You – can’t speak. You – can’t use your right arm. You get the idea.

Suddenly the camp director yelled something that changed my life forever– “Everyone except Lydia can no longer speak!”  Uhh…. THAT was unexpected!

Every fiber of my being wanted to be like – whoa, wait a minute, time out. You REALLY don’t want to put me in charge. But in that moment, a little bitty spark lit a little bitty light that God had created in me, which just waiting for the right moment to ignite. Before I even knew what was happening, I was putting a plan into action, calling out orders, and suddenly the task had been successfully completed. And I believe, with every fiber of my being, that this resplendent – transfiguration – transformation moment is what God used to launch me to where I am today.

Now your story is probably pretty different, but I’m not the one who gets to tell it. That’s your job.
When we ARE terrible secret keepers, the light gets brighter and brighter, and the fear, though it might not go away completely, seems to become dimmer. We can say, I am resplendent, and you are resplendent, because Jesus is the resplendent one shining out from our hearts. Through Jesus, we are witnesses to the shining, resplendent, lavish, dazzling love of God that refuses to be extinguished, even in the face of the dark powers of this world who try to snuff it out. We are resplendent, because we know, that, in the end, they cannot and do not succeed.

Arise, shine, for your light has come. Go out into the world… and be your resplendent self. Because, God knows, the world could use a little more light in it. Amen.

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