When Glory Shines

Transfiguration Sunday
Matthew 17:1-9                                                                           
2 March 2014
Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                                   
After our glorious afternoon at Peace last Sunday, when we dedicated this building and everything and everyone part of it, and this beautiful piece of land to God’s purposes, it was time to unwind, to slip away for a night with Richard for a belated birthday celebration with his brother Don.   We went to Tarpon Springs, the home of sponges and Greek food.   On Tuesday morning, I sat quietly in the pew in St Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church while Richard visited every icon in the sanctuary.  In that quiet moment of prayer in a church where I had no responsibility and could rest in God, I found God’s glory shining in the stained glass.  

But I have also found God’s glory shining here as we have feverishly prepared for Dedication and as we occasionally paused to smile at one another and marvel at the miracle of God’s provision of this place at just the right moment.   I have seen God’s glory as I have watched each of you give whatever gift God moved you to give – whether thousands of dollars to the Building Fund, or particular gifts to the Wish List or artwork or furniture, the gift of energy for tearing out walls or painting them, digging up stumps or planting flowers.   In all of these gifts, I see the glory of God.

For three months we have been packing and unpacking and fixing and celebrating God’s glory.   And not just the glorious gift of our own place, but the glory of God’s gift in you the people of Peace who have come together over eight years to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.   At presbytery on Thursday, a member of First Presbyterian, Sarasota, approached me to say how much she had appreciated our Dedication service, and she added, “You know, the worship was wonderful, but what really impressed me was the genuine warmth and authenticity of the people at Peace.  They made me feel truly welcome and comfortable.”   It is you who make this a place for God’s glory to be known by the way you build a community of peace and care for others.  
It is not the shining of stained glass windows but the shining of real lives with Christ’s love that makes the church a true church.

Come away with me now to hear the story of Christ’s great shining moment, when history collapses and past, present, and future collide.   Come away with me through a different kind of reflection on this text, one that is more right brain than left.

On the last Sunday of Epiphany as on the first, at the Baptism, God speaks from the clouds, declaring the truth that changes everything:  “This is my Beloved Son.”   Pay attention to him, be amazed, and don’t ever think you can cozy up too close to this amazing truth.”

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
(New Revised Standard Version)

(Tune:  Of The Father’s Love)
Glory be to God the Father,
Glory be to Christ the Son,
Glory to the Holy Spirit.
Ever three and ever one.

When God becomes human, and humans become more divine through connection with the Spirit of Christ, that’s when glory shines.  
When newborns like Andy Thornton are gifted with a wonderful adoptive family, glory shines despite the heartache laced with relief in a birth mother who had the generosity of spirit to participate in that glory.

When red-shouldered hawks and deer and sandhill cranes come to live with us on the edge of these woods and water, that’s when God’s glory shines.  
When the musical notes come together into harmonious resonant sound and our spirits are stirred to connect with Holy Spirit, God’s glory shines.

When new friends speak harsh words but soon recognize the need for apologies and forgiveness, glory shines.
When youth come together and bear their souls, being vulnerable with one another and trusting in the love that exists between them and God, glory shines. 

When a conservative missionary village and a progressive but rooted new Presbyterian congregation become true brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in one service of worship, glory shines.
When a church is born and landed by the generosity of sister churches and that new church pays it forward in dedication to support other new churches, glory shines.

When surgeries and therapies lead to better health and more functional ability or comfort…and when there is no surgery or therapy that works, but one can still face the morning with courage, give glory to God.
When new jobs are on the horizon where one can make a difference in the world, give glory to God.

When deep faith is born through patient waiting and believing that God’s promises are trustworthy, glory to God!
When two people, formerly a couple, set aside their own differences to make sure their children and their grandchildren feel their love, without competition or bitterness – glory.

When family and close friends come down to rest with us from the cold winds of the north and when we can escape the sultry heat of September to visit them…glory.
When church people care enough to reach out to those who are different, struggling, needy, and marginalized, because so did Jesus Christ, glory.

When teachers and leaders are understanding and inspiring while students and participants are listening and learning…glory
When a couple cares for a lost young man, wallowing in mental illness and substance abuse, when they care enough to go the extra mile, God’s glory is still shining in the darkness of unfulfilled hopes that may yet come to fruition.

When beans and rice and are lovingly packed week after week by a devoted few so that a desperate many may have a little on which to depend, glory lives.
When a mega warehouse chain store not only gives money to new churches but also steps up to give voice and power to the guy picking tomatoes, glory.

When church members all come rushing forward enthusiastically with their own gifts and ideas, and they make room for the opinions of others, glory.
When a Stephen Minister or Friend walks alongside one who is struggling and makes it easier by caring enough to take time to really listen, glory resounds all around.

When a ministry team or session of elders learns to work together fruitfully, aware that each person brings something valuable to the discussion and that the Spirit is at work in the group process, glory resounds.
When those who are single can find contentment in their singleness and those who are married can find contentment in the partner they have, glory to God. 

When we can recognize that a loving covenant between two adults that calls forth the best in each one is to be celebrated no matter who they are, God’s glory is seen. 

When a person with significant disabilities has the strength and determination to keep getting out in the world, despite the struggles of accessibility issues, God’s glory is seen.
When new ideas and dreams are born in Jesus and his disciples, while the traditions of Saints like Moses and Elijah are respected and honored, God’s glory is seen.

When followers of Christ are awed by God’s presence, more than they make  pronouncements in God’s name, glory to God.  
When they are more concerned with loving and caring for people, than judging them, glory to God.

When political leaders are willing to sit down and negotiate with others, relinquishing power for the sake of peaceful progress, glory. 

When people who are enthusiastic and want to build things because they are awed by God’s glory, like the disciples in this story, can step back and wait for God’s direction.  Glory.
When people who are afraid can hear the voice of Christ, saying “Do not fear” and then they see nothing else, only Jesus.  Glory.

When followers of Christ know when to talk of their remarkable experiences of the power of God and when to keep the Messianic secret.  Glory.
When their faces shine because the love of Jesus Christ has so filled their hearts and souls and minds, that it has to find a way out, even without saying much.  That’s glory.

Let us pray now, using this poem by Jan Richardson entitled, When Glory, A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday.   (paintedprayerbook.com)
Let us pray:

That when glory comes, we will open our eyes, to see it.
That when glory shows up, we will let ourselves
be overcome, not by fear, but by the love, it bears.
That when glory shines, we will bring it, back with us
all the way, all the way, all the way down.