Readings for the day (Transfiguration of Our Lord – Sunday, February 26, 2017):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
In the upstairs hallway of our home, we have numerous pictures of the past. I find myself from time to time looking and studying these pictures as I walk by. Some of the photos are occasionally replaced with more recent ones. Others however are never replaced. There’s a picture there that was taken during a recent vacation trip to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River when we were vacationing with some friends of ours. The nice thing about pictures is that they become documentation of how people and places change over time. The picture from the Headwaters is of both our families together, four adults and four children. This picture will soon be out of date because there will actually be six children. Now next to this picture in our hallway is a picture of my friend and I standing in the Fargodome after our college graduation. This is where is all began. What started out as two friends, turned into ten.
Comparing these two photos leaves me amazed at just how much can change in just eight years. Change can be viewed positively or negatively. When Jesus ascends the mountain, taking with Him Peter, James, and John, things change. Jesus changes, or rather – transfigured; which is what transfiguration means – to change. His face shines like the sun and His clothes become dazzling white. But that’s not the only thing that is changing. Here the focus for Jesus changes from healings and miracles to Jerusalem and specifically the cross.
Now some change is good, right? When a new baby is born into the family, that’s good. The family is growing by one, maybe even two. When a child or grandchild gets married, that’s also a good thing, usually (as long as you like the future spouse). 60 degree weather, friends and family moving closer, and income raises are all good changes that are welcomed. And then there are those other changes that we would rather have stay the same. Children growing up too fast and getting ever closer to driving and High School graduation, small town businesses closing, losing a spouse, losing a child; these are changes that aren’t welcomed and we grieve over what will become of the future with these changes.
Often we know that a change is necessary, it is just hard to accept that truth. We desperately hold on to the past because we aren’t ready for what lies ahead. Up on the mountain, Peter wants to build three dwellings (or tents). One for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He is so happy with the way things are that he doesn’t want it to go away. A couple summers ago I was fishing up in northern Minnesota. It was so peaceful, nearly perfect weather, excellent fishing. I didn’t want to leave that place. For me, leaving meant change. For Peter, if there were tents for these three, maybe they wouldn’t have to leave. And I think this is what makes change the hardest, when you know what needs to be done, you know that things need to change, but you’re afraid that if you allow a change to occur you will lose the past, and it will simply become a memory of what was. When a child graduates from High School, there is no reminder to clean your room, but rather just a memory of what was. When we lose our spouse, there is no more conversing or spending time together, but rather just a memory of what was. This is why we race so quickly to capture a photo of something; pictures help us retain those memories of what was. Pictures don’t help make change easier, but does help keep the memories from changing.
With our church, I think we all know that change is necessary. We are like Peter, wanting things to stay the same while knowing that change is inevitable. Things cannot stay the same. We will have to come down the mountain. We will have to get off the lake. The 60 degree weather, as we learned, will not last forever. The weather will change. Milestone events will come and go.
But God’s fame, God’s glory, what He is known for, will not change. Maybe this is where we and Peter get lost. The Transfiguration moment on the mountain top appears to be perfect, with Jesus all dazzling white and shining as bright as the sun. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t what God is known for. His glory is not found on the mountain, but on the cross. In the brokenness of a dehumanizing act of what humans do to fellow humans, the cross (a tree with some nails) is exactly where God’s glory, God’s fame is found. We expect God to be found where there is perfection, but Jesus flips our worldly perspective so that where we find God is not in the perfect, but in the broken, where we least expect it.
So maybe the reason why change is so hard is because the past, with all of our pictures, we have created an image that our past is perfect, and with the future so uncertain that’s where the brokenness must lie. But you know, how many of your photo albums or pictures that you hang on the walls show the brokenness of your past? You see, the only thing that has been perfect in our past or ever will be perfect in our future is the saving work that Christ did on the cross for us by turning the brokenness into perfection.
I do not know what lies ahead for the future of our church, but I do know that like the pictures on my hallway wall, some will stay displayed for a very long time while others will change. Not everything will be able to stay the same, it will be necessary for some things to change. But no matter how hard the change will be, it will be done all for God’s glory, making Christ’s death and resurrection known to all and for all. Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.