Imagine That!


February 10, 2013     
Transfigured Sunday
2 Cor. 3:12-4:7                                                                              
Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                                    

Transfiguration Sunday.    Just the day you’ve been waiting for, right?    When I mention it, many people in the church say, “Huh?”   Talk about Easter or Christmas or even Pentecost, the day we celebrate the birth of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit, but don’t talk to me about Transfiguration.   It’s just a weird story about Moses and Elijah coming down to chat with Jesus, and his face shining, and the disciples who were there being confused by the whole matter, and thinking that they needed to do something, when probably Jesus just wanted them to sit and reflect on the meaning of human life.  Imagine that!

Well, we’re not reading the unusual story of the Transfiguration today, but we are reflecting on what it means to be human – of all creation, we humans the ones who are created in the image of God.   Further, God was not satisfied because we tarnished that image badly with our sin, so God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to forever change our image back to its original beauty.   Imagine that!   God was willing to die to love us back into being who we were created to be – beautiful, wonderful people.   But here’s the thing:   God cannot transform us, apart from our cooperation with God.   God is sovereign (able to do all things) but God doesn’t turn us into puppets with no ability to choose, because to do so would make us less than human – not in the image of God.    

So what I have come to appreciate about Transfiguration Sunday is that it invites us to consider the mystery of Christ dwelling in us.   That we have been created in the image of God twice.   Once in the creation, and again, in the Incarnation.  Galatians 3:27 says “as many of you as were baptized into Christ are therefore clothed with Christ.”   Colossians 3:10 says we have clothed ourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.    

And our text today tells us that we, as clay jars, broken, leaky, imperfect earthen vessels are being transformed into the same image as Christ – from one degree of glory into another.   Before we hear the scripture, let us ask God to dwell richly in us by praying through song.   (Sing Sanctuary)

2 Corinthians 3:12-13;18-4:7
 
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside…

 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1 Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.   2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.   6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

(NRSV)

We have this treasure in clay jars.    The treasure is the light of Christ, the fullness of God which inhabits our humanity now through Jesus Christ.   Imagine that – the fullness of God, shining through you!   Yet that reflection of the glory of God can be hidden by the veil of our sin, by the masks, the personas we wear that are not the true person God created to be good and holy and faithful.  

What is so surprising is that the treasure (this light of Christ, this glory of God) is held in these imperfect vessels – our human persons.  We with our broken selves – body, soul, and spirit, are called to carry the treasure of Christ.   Through our weakness, God’s glory can be made visible.  But when we live in an authentic relationship with Christ and one another, God’s glory can beam – can shine brightly to illumine our community and our world.    God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   Jesus Christ is trying to shine brightly from your heart, the heart that God is transforming with your participation.   But that shining/that reflection happens best with our co-operation.

It is like the Faith Church Property we are purchasing.    God clearly was ready to give us a gift, but the gift could not be given apart from some very hard work on the part of the Building Vision Team.   The gift could not be given apart from some very generous giving on the part of the congregation.   Thank you.  Christ’s Peace will grow in Faith.  We are counting on every single person participating, as a symbol of our complete commitment as a church body to glorify God in the building we purchase.   It doesn’t matter how much you give, but it does matter that you give.   It is a joyful thing to participate in leaving a legacy – to do it together.

And another analogy related to the Faith Church property.   Notice that after a year of total neglect, the building/the vessel is not a shining light for Jesus Christ.   It looks tired and worn and unkempt.  The same thing is true of a Christian life not nurtured in faith.   See how much more energy and time it will take to get a church building that has been neglected for a year to shine with God’s glory.    Same with you.   If you neglect your faith, your life will not shine.  

Growing in Faith full of Peace will take some time and energy and discipline.   I hope you are gearing up for that.

God is responsible for the growth but we participate in our own and one another’s growth in faith.   The word is sanctification (becoming holy and true and faithful.)   You take an active part in unveiling yourself for the light of Christ to shine brightly.   You take off the mask of sin, of fear, of pride, of self-hatred.   Imagine that.   Real Christians are real.  They admit their struggles, and turn to God and one another for support.   They do not dwell obsessively on their own problems, to the neglect of others, but they do not cover up.    We have this treasure in clay jars – not fancy porcelain, not silver or gold.   Ordinary clay jars – so it will be clear that the power comes from God – not us.

Great example of someone growing in faith, being transformed by God right here among us is Glenn Kiplinger.   Glenn gave me permission to share his story.   Glenn has been dreading the second anniversary of Martha’s death, February 13, but he had a revelation from God about a week ago that he is holding with confidence.  The Spirit of God reminded Glenn of the tremendous blessing of his long, happy marriage to Martha, of all the good times they had together and of the blessing she was to him.    Glenn’s profound gratitude has overcome his profound grief.   Glenn was listening when God spoke to him.  

Some people ask if there is life after death, but wiser people also ask if there is life before death.   There is no life before death unless we are living in the glory of God, giving off a refection of that glory.  "The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive." - Saint Irenaeus    Glenn has chosen life!

We are called to something greater than ourselves.    As St Benedict put it, way back in the 6th century, “In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own, and therefore, we should never grieve the Holy One…”  For disregarding the glory of God that has been given to us, for refusing to use the resources that God has given us to bring to reality the reign of God here and now, we lose what is ours.   The price is high.   We miss out on the life that we are meant to have.  

In failing to respond to God everywhere God is around us, we may lose the power of God that is in us.  Imagine that!   What a waste.   Benedict challenges us to listen today, to start now, to begin immediately to direct our lives to following God’s way, shining Christ’s light.   The spiritual life is not something gained by just wishing for it or even praying occasionally for it.  The spiritual life is a life of discipline.   It is something to be learned and internalized in the day-to-day life of Christian community.   It is a way of life, an attitude of mind, and an orientation of soul, a way of seeing.   It’s like the man in the hospital with his bed by the window, describing for his very sick roommate all the beautiful things God had placed outside their window.   He keeps his roommate alive by describing in great detail all wonders of God’s creation.  When the man by the window suddenly dies, the roommate asks to be put by the window, only to realize the window looked out just to a blank wall – the other tower of the hospital.   He had been blessed by a roommate with a faithful imagination and a joyful spirit.   People who see the glory of God are able to transform lives, no matter their circumstances.

It is the practice of all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, and being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   And since it is by God’s mercy that we are involved in this ministry (not passive but involved), we do not lose heart.

Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross, author of Death and Dying said, people are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.  

The light within is the glory of God, I tell you.   Imagine that.  Imagine glory, seek to uncover, unveil that glory of God until the whole world is illumined by it.