Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on Feb. 11, 2024

Posted by on Sun, Feb 11, 2024 in Epiphany, Sermons

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Feb. 11, 2024

I saw the short end of a beautiful and vivid rainbow driving home from Seattle this week, and then a second one emerged behind, though less distinct. Such a pleasure, and then compelling because I could only see a piece of the end rising over Issaquah and disappeared into the dark clouds—I wanted to see the rest of it! I even considered driving into the Sammamish highlands where it appeared brightest, but decided it was enough to have felt the beauty and blessing of what I’d seen. Chasing it would likely yield only more clouds. The disciples have an exponentially grander experience than my rainbow in seeing Jesus’ transfiguration, and they too want to hang on to it, have it longer, and secure it in tents to stay put.

Would seeing a rainbow every day have left me so agog? More likely I’d have compared it to other days, critical of it’s limited appearance and the blurriness of the second one. The disciples weren’t expecting to see Jesus’ transfiguration either, and their response of confusion then silence makes perfect sense. They had no idea what was coming. It was not uncommon for Jesus to go to a quiet place and pray, so perhaps they were doing that. They were his disciples, following as invited along that day. Little preparation for such a life-changing experience!

I imagine them as being open to what he might teach or ready to respond to what Jesus might ask. I also hear in Mark’s gospel how this event is bracketed with two healings of blindness, and how in the sentence just before we hear Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” —until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.

Yesterday I was in a zoom meeting with our provisional bishop Melissa and ‘the governing bodies’ of our diocese. (Our interpreter for the deaf was our own Elizabeth Holland, by the way!) Anyway, because we don’t all meet together this way often Bishop Melissa gave us an opening small group exercise; share an experience of God’s presence that really affected you, including where and when. Among our four, three of us shared readily very specific moments, recalling the setting, time of day, and other details. The other person simply acknowledged having known God’s presence sometimes. It may have felt too personal a question for sharing with virtual strangers. We preserve and share such powerful experiences differently; one told with tearful thankfulness and another with quiet reserve for it was so precious she couldn’t say. Think of your own such times, when God’s presence was palpable and so real. What does it say to you now? Have you ever told anyone about it? What if Jesus said you must not tell anyone? How hard that must have been for Peter, James and John!

I said their preparation was being Jesus’ disciples and literally ready to follow him where he led that day. If one had lagged behind, would he have missed it? What if one had declined saying he was tired or busy? They weren’t strangers, they were close by and fully engaged. How do we respond to Jesus’ invitation? Are we so ready to follow him into transformation? Peter, James and John were already his followers, as are we these two-thousand years later. Being disciples ourselves means we choose to be close, to walk Jesus’ way, we try to keep up, keeping him in sight.

Another aspect of preparation is learning and knowledge of our tradition. Yesterday I spoke with the woman who does our condo’s gardening. She asked how we pray and study scripture together. Fortunately she had a lot of pruning to do because we talked for a good while, and she responded readily several times with a beautiful affirmation from scripture that expanded my thinking and made us both treasure the conversation. Her faith was informed by deep knowledge which furthered her faith, and her openness and readiness for God’s grace was evident. She was on a ladder with pruning shears, dim sunlight brightening her face as we enjoyed talking about this very reading! Without learning about scripture Peter might have said, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, rabbi, and two for your buddies; that old guy, and this one holding stone tablets. Had they not know their story and symbolism a large part of the message would have been lost. It may have seemed as minor as my little piece of rainbow, lovely as it was.

Finally, God gives us the greatest aspect of readiness; “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Listen to him. There are a thousand sermons in those three simple words, and from God it is listening greater than mere human hearing. The Greek word for listen here is ἀκούω or akouó (ak-oo’-o) meaning to hear, listen; figuratively to hear God’s voice which prompts [God] to birth faith within. Its root word ἀκοή, akoé (ak-o-ay’) is often used for inner spiritual hearing that goes with receiving faith from God. So we Listen to him in prayer, through scripture, in worship. As we say in baptism, in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. With or without words, and closely enough to enter the quiet of that mountaintop with him, lifted well above all the other voices clamoring for our attention, and especially beyond the gods of those lesser allegiances and misleading empty promises.

At our best, all of these will have in common a posture and expectation of joy. And expectation that things will always change—they went up that mountain and came ack down, though they came back changed themselves. Their pattern of moving from an ordinary moment to the extraordinary with God and then back out again is a rhythm of one’s faith life which transforms us again and again. The grace to see Jesus’ transfiguration and God’s glory reflected back changed them too. The power is lasting not so much in recalling the dazzling event itself, but in how it strengthens and prepares them for all that lies ahead as they walk with Jesus to Jerusalem and ultimately into resurrection.

Its curious that having been told to listen to Jesus the Beloved Son, he says nothing whatsoever to them. They would have to keep following him if they were going to hear him. So they could let their faith remain there stuck on preserving that mountain moment, or instead be guided on by the experience, allowing it to grow into something far greater.

We may think by comparison with theirs that our world too complex or too broken for help from Jesus, yet God’s voice tells us to Listen to him! too. If Jesus sounds distantly idealistic or too long-ago-world to understand what we deal with presently, we again need to hear Listen to him! When we’re too busy or too important to pause for a moment of reflection and prayer, we can hope God tells us again, Listen to him! Even when we come to church and aren’t sure we believe or come with more doubts and questions than faith—especially then, Listen to him! They returned to continue on, and so we may too; carrying within us the light of Christ and his Good News for all who will listen, and thus we are prepared for the dazzling glory of the Divine Transfiguration!

© 2024 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

Post will be removed at 8:00 PM on Wed., Feb. 11, 2026.