Sermon for Sunday, August 8, 2021
Behold the Glory of God,
Delight in Every Glimmer of His Love
A sermon by the Rev. Susan Bek
Feast of the Transfiguration
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2Peter 1:30-21; Luke 9:28-36
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ventura, California
August 8, 2021
It’s wonderful to be back. I’ve just returned from my sabbatical, and I have so much I want to share with you! You’ll hear all about it in time. Upcoming sermons and newsletters will include stories of great adventures, insights from my studies and some wonderful photos and videos highlighting the beauty of Creation.
While I was away, I climbed mountains, hiked across spectacular landscapes, and soaked my feet in a pool fed by a waterfall. I practiced my wildlife photography, watched osprey and eagles soar, and in a forest in the High Sierras I sat a short distance from three bucks in silent conversation with the one who created us all. I spent time with my newborn grandson, and I snorkeled amazing reefs and took the opportunity to journey, for a few minutes, with a beautiful Hawaiian sea turtle. All of these experiences have helped to renew my spirit, refresh my soul, and equip me for the journey ahead. Now I’m ready to help you get refreshed, inspired and equipped to continue your journey of faith. But if I share it all at once, it will be the longest sermon ever, so let’s take it a little at a time.
IN TODAY’S SERMON
We’re going to talk about two profound, mountain-top experiences. One is in scripture, the other is a personal experience I had when I visited what is believed to be the same location where the Transfiguration took place. Both these stories involve Jesus and the glory of God.
I’m also going to share the Good News and offer suggestions to help us build the spiritual strength we need to get through these challenging times.
If you’re a note taking kind of person, you’ll want to get ready. There are a few things you might want to take down.
Finally, in today’s sermon I’ll answer this important question, “What does it matter?” Why bother to study ancient scripture when we have pressing matters that need our attention today?
Let us pray…
Lord, open your scriptures to us.
Inspire, lead, and guide us as we search your truth and seek to become
instruments of your love and peace. Amen.
In this week’s gospel lesson, we hear about how, on a holy mountaintop, Jesus was transfigured. In raiment white he beamed with the glory of God and after Peter, James and John saw standing with him Moses (the giver of God’s law) and Elijah (a great prophet), after the clouds and fog rolled in covered them, there in the darkness, uncertainty and fear, God spoke and said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
One day, many years ago, while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, I had a personal experience on that same mountain-top at the Church of the Transfiguration. I’ll put some pictures of it in this week’s Enews in case you’d like to see it.
A fellow pilgrim, Catherine, began to read to us,
“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. …”
I’d heard the story so many times before, but it was different this time. Because we were there, it felt like we became part of that story. And that story, that beautiful, inspiring piece of scripture would now become an inseparable part of our story too. God is good, and scripture is a wonderfully amazing and powerful thing!
There are many rooms in this church and two chapels – the Chapel of Moses and the Chapel of Elijah. Our small group of about 14 seminarians and priests sat in the chapel of Moses.
“… a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Matthew 17: 1-5
I was so moved, I just sat there and meditated. In my journal that evening, I wrote, “I sat for a long while in the Chapel of Moses today. Everyone else left the room, and I was alone. When I opened my eyes, I saw something I had not noticed before. It was a door.
I have been struggling a little with my calling on this trip. I feel so strongly my call to ministry, but, at the same time, I’m scared. I can’t stop wondering, why me? I'm just an ordinary person, just as human, flawed, and sinful as everybody else.
I've been praying a lot about this. And here, in the chapel of Moses at the Church of the Transfiguration I sat alone facing a beautiful old door. The door is a symbol for me, an answer to my prayer. The door seems to represent my call to ministry--my invitation to be more, and to serve, so I sit and contemplate the door. There are many obstacles that stand between me and the door, but nothing I can't handle.
Suddenly I realize something unusual. The door is not locked from the outside, it’s barred from the inside. And there’s a keyhole but it’s very low on the door, down near the floor. It’s so low that to unlock it, you’d have to get on your knees.
These were some of my experiences at the Church of the Transfiguration that day. That’s why this story is so meaningful to me, but what about you, what about all of us who just hear scripture stories in church and wonder, “why does this matter in my life?”
Why Does the Study of Ancient Scripture Matter?
It matters because we are the beautiful and broken people that Jesus loves, and because right now he is calling us to go out and shine as the light of Christ in midst of a global pandemic. I know that sounds frightening, but don’t worry. He is with us.
So, remember what the angels say whenever they appear in scripture, “Fear not!” God is with us. Though the fear surrounds us, we can choose not to let it control us. Instead of acting and living in fear, we can choose to live in hope and love. Whenever we choose to follow Jesus, he will lead us through the darkness and bring us back out into the light.
What You Might Do to Go Deeper and Build Spiritual Strength
This week, I invite you to unlock the door that stands between you and God. It’s not locked on God’s side. It’s locked on yours. You may find that it gives way easily or you may have to get on your knees (literally or metaphorically) to open it. Whatever it takes for you, open it wide and practice the discipline of looking for God; beholding God’s glory.
I’ll include this challenge and some specific suggestions on how to incorporate it into your daily life, along with some encouragement for you, in this week’s email newsletter.
For now, I want to invite you to make this morning’s scripture a part of your story too. How? Try these suggestions -
Suggestions of Things to think about this week:
- The voice of God said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” What does that mean to you?
- Where do you behold the glory of God?
- What helps you connect with that glory so that you, too, can shine with the love of God?
Suggestions of Things to do this week:
- Continue to be thoughtful, careful, and prayerful.
- Unlock the door that stands between you and God and seek to behold the glory of God. When you do, you’ll see God in new and unexpected ways.
- Go out and shine as the light of Christ to this world in need.
Also, come back next week, either in-person or online. We have lots of love and scripture to share, lots of hope to pass around, lots of spiritual strength to inspire.
Joining in worship is always a good idea, but it’s especially important in the challenging times. So, I look forward to being with you again next Sunday.
Let us pray…
Holy, life-giving and liberating God, help us, this week, to turn away from the disquietude of the world so that we may, by faith, behold you in all your glory. Fill us with your love and inspire us through your Holy Spirit so that we each may shine as the light of Christ and serve this pandemic-weary world in his name. We ask this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.