A Moment of Glory; a Lifetime of Service

“A Moment of Glory; a Lifetime of Service”
Matthew 17:1-9
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Transfiguration Sunday

The story of Moses on top of Mount Sinai is one of several episodes known as “theophanies”…
A “theophany” is: “An appearance of God that is perceptible to human sight.”
The burning bush is another example, as are the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud seen by the Israelites as they escaped Egypt.
Samuel and Isaiah, Amos and Ezekiel, each perceived an appearance of God.
AND, each was transformed, transfigured, if you will – given an exalted or spiritual appearance that changed them, inside and out, for the better…
Each one left their moment in the glory of God and went out to live
a lifetime of service to God.
Matthew’s gospel this morning tells us the story of another “theophany” – the Transfiguration of Christ; an appearance of God that reveals once and for all the true identity of Jesus Christ as God with us…
After the Resurrection, the Disciples will use this moment of glory as one of their proofs that Jesus is God and it will greatly influence their life of service to the Lord.
Let us pray…
Lord, we have come to hear your Word and learn what you have in mind for us.
Guide us in our hearing and our learning this morning.
I pray that the words I speak are your words
and that the lessons we take away come from you.
Bless us as we listen for you.
In Jesus’ name…Amen
Usually when we hear this text preached each year, the focus is on Jesus and how this story provides such a clear testimony about his identity.
The story is filled with glorious images like:
…his face shone like the sun; …his clothes became dazzling white
Jesus floats in the sky with Moses – The Law, and Elijah – The Prophets.
Peter is reduced to fearful babbling until God’s own voice interrupts him and says: “Be quiet! This is my Son. Pay attention and listen to Him!”
It’s all about Jesus…usually.
Today I want us to take a slightly different perspective on this story…
Yes, this is a miraculous moment in the life and ministry of Jesus.
What is often overlooked is the transformation of Peter, James, and John.
This theophany – this appearance of God changed these men forever and set them on a path of lifetime service to God.
I have shared with you before how I was called into full time ministry…
I was the Worship Leader in our church and it was time to start the first song.
I was interrupted when the voice of God called to me from the cross on the wall; calling my name and, basically telling me to pay attention!
Nobody else heard it, but they noticed the change on my face and the rest, as they say, is history as I listened to God’s leading me here.
The question for us this morning is: How do you experience theophany and how does it change your life of service to God?
The problem is that most of us don’t think that we are called by God to anything special.
Most Christians rarely feel called to the occupations, relationships, and volunteer activities they are involved with.
We may experience moments of insight, but too often the moments of failure and denial overcome the perceived glory of discernment.
Our doubts and insecurities get in the way of seeing that moms and dads, students and retirees, doctors and janitors, military personnel, taxi drivers, teachers, and coaches, are all called by God into this story.
The Transfiguration isn’t just about Jesus and Peter; it’s about you and me too…We are also called to “listen to Him” and to “get up and do not be afraid.”
This story challenges each one of us to recognize those moments of glory when the presence of God is perceptible to us…
We’ve spent the past few weeks listening to Jesus preach from the side of the mountain about the wonder of being in relationship with God…
We’ve seen the glory of God in promised blessing, salt and light, forgiveness and healing, and the abundance of God’s love.
The story we hear today is our story – a story of God’s presence in our lives that calls us to participate in God’s drama to save, bless, and care for all the world.
Listen to the story and know that we are all called…we each have a lifetime of service to live.

Edification or Demolition?
— Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Two gas stations attendants. One I met at a self-service pump; the other at her desk. The first in rain on a chilly night. The second in the afternoon, but there was no sun in that building.

What caused their differing attitudes, I won’t pretend to know. There may be a host of reasons why the latter attendant was so bitter, and much sympathy spilled on her. But that isn’t the point right now. Edification is the point, a Latin way of saying “building up.” The power to build up other human beings, or else to tear them down, no matter how menial the circumstance or how quick the meeting—that is the power possessed by each member of the body of Christ, and a mighty power indeed.

I had my collar up against the rain. I hunched at the rear of the Nova, had screwed the gas cap off and was running gas into the tank. My hand was numb. Beside me, suddenly, stood the attendant, his hands in his pockets. His presence was not rushing me because it was at peace. He said, “hello,” and a smile flicked across his face. Nor was he some chill stranger, though I did not know him. When he spoke he looked directly into my eyes—without fear, without embarrassment, with neither judgment nor haughtiness nor threat. I, whoever I happened to be; I, whatever my family or my profession; I was there for him in that moment.
He was lean. Dark hair streaked his forehead with the rain. He shook his head slowly when he saw the brown face of my kid looking out the window, and raindrops flew off his chin. I think he laughed. The fill-up seemed to take a long time. I hit $20 on the penny, capped the pipe, handed him the bills and watched while he folded them into his roll. He did not solve some terrible trouble of mine. Nor did he save me from disaster or fix something I couldn’t fix. Nevertheless, this attendant did the extraordinary.

He shook my hand. He smiled one more time, and to me he said, “Thank you.” I admit it: This is a minor and nearly forgettable incident. And it should be unworthy of a column. Except that when I slid back into the Nova, I stopped a moment before turning the key and Thanne said, “Why are you smiling?” Drip, drip and a slowly spreading smile. The fellow had built me up. He had edified me.

I never saw him again.

Neither did I ever see the other attendant again. But I remember her too. She kept her separated seat while I filled my thirsty car. No matter to that. Most attendants don’t pop out of the station for every person that jerks the handle. But when I entered the building, still she kept the seat, her eyes downward, gazing at the top of her desk. No book to read. Just staring.

I held out my money. “Whadda-ya want me to do with that?” she said. “Well, to take it,” I said. “I’m paying for the gas.” “So how much was it?” “Twenty.”

There were lines from her nose to the corners of her mouth. Sullen lines. Anger, for some reason or other. And I was, it seemed, an intrusion in her life. She snapped the bills from my hand and bedded them in the slots of her register. She was chewing gum. It cracked like biddy-whips. She was whorling her hair with a forefinger.

I stood there too long, I think. She said, still without looking at me, “Your car stuck? You waiting for something?” “No.” I slid disquieted into the car and sat awhile. Demolition.
Sadness had made me sad. The day had been torn down utterly.

You say: “But how can I serve the Lord? I’m not important. What I do is so common and of little consequence. Anyone can do what I do.” But I say to you: “Every time you meet another human being you have the opportunity. It’s a chance at holiness. For you will do one of two things. Either you will build him up, or you will tear him down. Either you will acknowledge that she is, or you will make her sorry that she is —sorry, at least, that she is there, with you. You will create, or you will destroy. And the things you dignify or deny are God’s. They are made, each one of them, in God’s own image.”

And I say to you: “There are no useless, minor meetings. There are no dead-end jobs. There are no pointless lives. Swallow your sorrows; forget your grievances and all the hurt your poor life has sustained. Turn your face truly to the human before you and let her, for one pure moment, shine. Think her important, and then she will suspect that she is fashioned of God.”

How do you say “Hello”? Or do you? How do you greet strangers? Are you so proud as to burden your customer, your client, your neighbor, your child, with your tribulations? Even by attitude? Even by crabbiness or gloom? Demolition!

Or do you look them in the eye and grant them peace? Such are the members of the body of Christ—and edification in a service station.

Reprinted by permission from Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, published by HarperSanFrancisco. Walter Wangerin is a faculty member at Valparaiso University in Indiana, an Evangelical Lutheran Church pastor and author.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen