Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; Philippians 3:7-14; Matthew 17:1-9

Friends in Christ: On behalf of the eleven member communions of the Kentucky Council of Churches representing some 3000 congregations in our state, and on behalf of the three dozen of so members of New Union Christian Church in beautiful Woodford County, Kentucky, I bring greetings of grace and peace to you in the name of our one Lord, Jesus Christ. We are gratefulr for your hospitality and for this ministry of national service of prayer for each of our fifty states.

Will you now join me in prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, as the light of your glory radiates from your being, so be our light as we follow you. Be revealed among us in power, in word, in sacrament, and in the places where we live and work. Glory be to you, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.

Have you ever wondered what the glory of God is like; how it would appear if you could see what Moses saw on Sinai, or what Peter and James and John saw on Mt. Tabor that day when they went up there with Jesus?

We have all seen people shining with pride at an achievement. Like you, I.ve seen things so beautiful the splendor seems to radiate from them. Last summer, at the Louvre, I turned a corner in that huge museum and there within ten feet of me was a Monet painting of water lilies so magnificent I found tears pooling in my eyes as I stood mesmerized by that painting. I had been looking for the impressionists, but found myself surprised by my reaction to seeing this one particular painting. I.ve heard music so pure that my heart leaped in response until I thought it might break from the melodic loveliness, the chord progressions and movements and final harmonic resolution. You.ve had these experiences, too, I.m certain.

Surely, they are tiny hints of .Gloria in excelcis.. I remember looking at my daughters when they were newly born, and as they grew to adulthood, and seeing life glowing within and from them in what was a halo of love. Is this, perhaps, a little hint of what the glory of God is like?

Three years ago, I had another experience that came closer, for me, to the experience of the three disciples on Mt. Tabor than anything else I think I may ever see or hear or feel. Over 6000 people from every continent on earth, from nearly every land and tribe, had gathered in the December summer of sub-Saharan Africa, in Harare, Zimbabwe, for the eighth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches. In all our amazing diversity of humanity and culture, together under a great blue tent of meeting, we had worshipped the one God we had each come to know, in our far away homelands and distant cultures, through a man named Jesus who had lived and died and rose again some 2000 years ago. The evocativeness of those worship services sent shivers up my spine every day and every night. But my experience of God’s glory came as the worshippers filed out of that tent, on our last night, each with a candle lit from the one flame burning in an advent wreath, and in a parade of humanity holding aloft these flickering candles against the dark night on an African hillside. The glory of God, the people of Christ, were going out into the world, singing .O Come All Ye Faithful..each in our own language, and each of us coming into the messy, complicated, muddy, entrenched world to bear witness. It was those small, flickering lights held bravely against the winds of history, the tides of greed and apathy, across all the geography of human division, that convinced me my eyes were seeing something of the glory of God. It was stunningly wonderful, a foretaste of the reign of God.

Whether your glimpses of glory have been little or huge, experiences like these of the dazzling radiance of holiness affirm for us that THIS WORLD is not empty of meaning. This world of flesh and blood is invaded with purpose and authority other than our own. Time and space are transcended. What we DO, therefore, matters. How we treat our neighbors, the sojourners, the strangers, and yes, even our enemies, is of ultimate importance for the sake of all creation.

 

Were Jesus merely an itinerant prophet and healer who fell afoul of Roman justice and crucified as a royal pretender, the world would long ago have forgotten him. This story points to what our hearts know, as did the burning hearts of the two on the road to Emmaus; the account of the transfiguration captures the mystery of Jesus. person and draws us to his divinity, his holiness, his otherness, his sonship.which once having glimpsed it, makes all things forever different. Having seen Jesus transfigured, all creation possesses the capacity to be transfigured.

Flannery O.Connor says it this way, in her story, .The Peeler.: .You got a secret need,. the blind man said. .Them that know Jesus once can.t escape Him in the end..

.I ain.t never known Him,. Haze said.

.You got at least knowledge,. the blind man said. .That.s enough. You know his name and you.re marked. If Jesus has marked you there ain.t nothing you can do about it. Them that have knowledge can.t swap it for ignorance.. [Flannery O.Connor, .The Peeler., in The Complete Stories of Flannery O.Connor, 1949].

If the Transfiguration story is meant to tell us that the glory of God was evident in Jesus, has become flesh and dwelt among us, and has filled THIS world with its holy meaning, it carries another message also. God.s self-giving, the revealing of Jesus as Messiah, is not simply a statement of fact; it is an imperative command. It is no mere proof text. God.s self-giving glory is command for those who see the glory.nothing more and nothing less than holy marching orders. Julia Ward Howe had it right: Christ is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, making good wine where angry fruit had been. His terrible swift sword cuts through the procrastinations and obstacles that we erect.obstacles of our greed, our prejudice, our short-sightedness, our self-justification; and God’s truth is marching on.

For the Gospel writer Matthew, Peter.s offer to build 3 tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah is a ludicrous outburst, the kind of words that typify too much religious talk.then and now. It is ill-timed, diversionary, senseless babel. The voice from the cloud, repeating what they had not heard at Jesus. baptism, tells them: .This is my son, the Beloved. With him, I am well pleased..and then comes the command: .listen to him.. Heed him.

It is terrifying as a religious person to realize that faith is not about sitting back and admiring God, soaking up all that radiance in some kind of cosmic shelter. God.s glory is command. Heed him. Listen to him. Do as he does. No wonder the disciples fall on their faces in fear. Then, in a rare expression in the Gospels, the one who is always calling, .Follow me., comes to them.as he comes, in every age to those prophets and martyrs, those believers and saints who understand that faith is not a noun but a verb, that faith is not so much about what we believe as how we will live in a world where there are few final answers.

Jesus touches them, and speaks words of reassurance, of incredible grace to the disoriented, of divine patience with confused disciples. .Get up. Do not be afraid. Let.s go..

Thus it is that God.s glory never pacifies; it empowers. God.s glory never seeks adoration; it galvanizes into action. God.s glory sends and takes those who see it, who are marked by the name of the Beloved Son, into the thick of the things of this world.where only after witnessing the earthly agony of their Lord does the heavenly glory seen on the mountain make any sense at all. Or perhaps it is the other way around, that the earthly agony can only make sense because of the glory they had seen. .With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; as he died to make us holy; let us die to make all free..

I have been told that in the Lincoln Bay here at this magnificent cathedral, the bosses, or capstones at the top of the arches, have carved figures that reflect Julia Ward Howe.s Battle Hymn of the Republic. I’m afraid that my vision is not good enough to see them clearly. However, in two days, on Feb. 12, we will celebrate the birth of Abraham Lincoln, a humble man born in Kentucky, who had no physical comeliness, and who never ranked high, while alive, in popularity, but who is the model of presidential greatness. He is perhaps a fitting example, on Kentucky Day, of what transfigurations and metamorphoses occur in the world when an individual has caught a glimpse of the glory of God, and knows the holiness, the sacred value of all life. .As I would not be a slave,. said Lincoln, .so I would not be a master..

Once at an official reception, Lincoln had occasion to refer to Southerners as erring human beings rather than as foes to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. .Why, madam,. said Lincoln, .do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?.

Get up, do not be afraid, let.s go. There is transfiguring work to do in our everyday worlds. God’s glory has come to dwell among us in order that, as the collect of the day says, we might be changed into his likeness from glory to glory. Mine eyes have seen the glory. God’s truth is marching on. Have your eyes seen the glory?

Will you pray with me again:

Lord Jesus Christ, as the light of your glory radiates from your being, so be our light as we follow you. Be revealed among us in power, in word, in sacrament, and in the places where we live and work. Glory be to you, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.