Epiphany Last, February 23, 2020 Matthew 17:1-9
This is the Last Sunday in Epiphany. It has been a season where all the readings explain the ministry of Jesus. You remember how it started. On the first Sunday after the Epiphany the Gospel reading was Jesus at the Jordan River. Matthew tells us: He was baptized and when He came up from the water, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove.
And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." Sounds familiar? Today, on the last Sunday after Epiphany, we hear the same thing in the Transfiguration event: "This is my Son, the Beloved: with him I am well pleased..."
These are divine proclamations that are like bookends for the season of Epiphany. They call us to focus on Jesus, God made flesh. Our God is transcendent, you cannot see Him, yet He is right here. He is set apart but He is always drawing near.
Because we encounter Jesus in our lectionary readings from week to week, we may take Him for granted. We may take the events for granted. That could be a good thing, the familiar stories can become predictable. Our God-made-human may begin to seem ordinary, par for the course.
But can we also long for an exciting, amazing encounter with God. God does not always come to us in sudden bursts of mysterious revelation as he did to Peter, James and John in this morning's reading. Their miraculous encounter with Jesus is quite different from their every day experiences with him.
Matthew tells us, "[Jesus] face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white." Moses and Elijah appear with him, a bright cloud overshadows them, and god speaks. One might say that in the midst of the ordinary, these disciples experience the extraordinary.
It must be faith-affirming to experience God in such an amazing way, quite different from our run-of-the-mill encounters with Jesus in the lectionary. Seeing the face of God would certainly do a lot for my faith. Can you just imagine it?
The desire to glimpse Jesus in unexpected and miraculous ways is understandable. It sure would make believing easier, but we do not typically encounter God in the miraculous. Instead, we encounter God in more subtle yet equally important ways.
Some folks find God in the woods on a foggy morning. Others see God in the housecat curled up in the sunshine. Some people meet God in their customers, patients, clients, and coworkers. You might even notice God in the cheerful demeanor of a passing stranger.
There may well be those among us who have had a "mountaintop" experience. Thunder crashes, lightning strikes, and God takes shape right before their eyes. But even they, like Peter, James, and John, must come back down to level ground. Even an extraordinary event can become an ordinary one after someone has a chance to turn it over in their head.
Instead of standing idle and waiting for God to be revealed to us in some extraordinary way, we are called to get up every day and look for Jesus' presence in our ordinary lives. Admittedly, recognizing God at work in ordinary life can be difficult, especially when we face setbacks, sorrow, or general annoyance. But rest assured, God is there.
So, as we start this Lenten season, we all can take one little step forward on our individual spiritual journey. It can be something that you can do that would make you feel good about your faith. "I am going to read my Bible every day. If that is what you decide, keep it simple. Read one of the shorter books. Read it slowly. Or just read one chapter that appeals to you, read it as a meditation. Read a few verses and then sit back and think about it. By the end of Lent, you will be an expert on that one chapter.
You can try something new with your time of prayer. You can take the Lenten course on Thursday nights.
Keep looking for Jesus. When you finally do catch a glimpse of him, your perspective will change in an instant. He may not always appear in the way you want him to, or in the way you think he should, but nevertheless, he will be there.
So, watch for him. And listen too. You'll know it when you hear it--that voice from heaven that rings in your ear. "You are my Beloved; I am well pleased with you."