Sermon: Paramount

Date:  March 3, 2019, The Transfiguration
Scripture Lesson: Luke 9:28-43a
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

Many times we have gone to a movie that begins with the appearance of a snow-capped mountain followed by numerous stars that gather in an arc framing the peak.  And then the intent is revealed: Paramount. Superior to all others. Above the rest. The best. Well, all Paramount Pictures, it turns out, are not at the top, at least not this year at the Oscars.  But the logo at the beginning of a Paramount movie sets the expectation. Get ready for a star-studded, peak experience.

This morning we heard a story about a star-studded peak experience.  We are told that Jesus and three disciples, Peter, James, and John, head up a mountain.  In the Bible, mountains are a place for an encounter with God. At the top, Jesus appears luminescent.  Elijah and Moses appear. They are yesteryear stars of the Hebrew people. A voice comes from a cloud. The scene is complete with special effects – shining light, apparitions of the dead, a voice from the beyond, shrouded by a cloud.  All the trappings of a Paramount Picture! And a paramount experience it is. This story marks a turning point in the Jesus story. After coming down the mountain, Jesus’ trajectory is aimed toward Jerusalem, for his final engagement with the authorities, which will lead to his death and beyond.  

Jesus shows us a faith, a way of being, that is filled with awe and wonder.  He invites us to be part of all of Creation, something so much greater than ourselves that is magnificent and miraculous.  He beckons us to know ourselves as part of an interconnected whole. This gives us life. And we are needed, each one of us, for the well-being of the whole.  Our light is needed to shine.

In the Transfiguration story, Jesus goes up with mountain with Peter, James, and John.  We have been told that these are three of the first disciples. They are the fishermen that Jesus calls as he walks along the Lake of Galilee.  These men have thriving lives. They have a profession providing food for others. They are good at their work. They are making a constructive contribution to the community.  They have families. They are devoted Jews and practice their religion. They have a good life. Jesus does not condemn them or criticize their lives. He does not harangue against their sinfulness.  And yet we have the story of these fishermen leaving their job, community, and family to follow Jesus. Why would they leave their lives, their livelihoods? Because Jesus is offering them something more.  He wants to take them to the peak. He offers them something that is truly paramount.

As Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk and spiritual teacher of the 20th century, tells us:  “We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time.”

Jesus wants us to encounter God everywhere.  He is inviting us to live extraordinary lives, right here in the midst of the everyday.  He is calling us to Be:

Be dazzled by each breath.  

Be filled with gratitude for the sublime mystery of each moment of life.  

Be blessed by all those who have gone before us.  

Be willing to give our lives to something greater than ourselves.  

Be filled with Divine light that helps others to see.  

Be aware of the voice of Divine Love speaking to us through nature, loved ones, strangers, religion, the arts, and even through the media.  A message may even emerge from the murky clouds of Facebook! This mountain top story reminds us that we are called to a life of deep reverence, awe, and engagement.  

From a peak there is a beautiful view, a vista, of a much larger reality.  People who climb Mount Everest can’t find words to fully describe what it is like to be on top of the world and see forever. It is humbling and ennobling.  That’s what Jesus is offering us: Life with a vista of the past, of the future, of the web of Creation, life with a vista into ourselves. It’s a large life, lived in the very present moment of the everyday.  It’s a life of taking care of each other, loving each other, and co-creating heaven here on this mountain-peaked Earth even when the way is difficult and treacherous. It is humbling and it is ennobling.

This Sunday the season of Epiphany comes to a close.  Epiphany is a church season celebrating the coming of Jesus, a light to the world.  It is a time to glory in all that we are given through Jesus. It is a time to appreciate the lens of love and eternity that Jesus gives to us.  Epiphany is followed by the church season of Lent. It’s kind of an abrupt switch. Lent is a time of repentance. Re-turning our lives to God. It’s a realization that while we appreciate the light that Jesus brings to the world, we have a tendency to turn from the light, maybe even shield our eyes.  So the season of Lent, a season of repentance, is a time to recognize how we set our sights too low, how we are missing out on what is being given to us, how we hesitate to trust the Gospel, or even turn a deaf ear to Gospel promises. We can be prone to stopping short of the peak. Just like we need Epiphany, we also need Lent to help us re-center on the light and stay committed to trekking to the peak.  

May we continue to be guided by the light of Epiphany as we make our way through Lent seeking to be filled with the full radiance of Divine Love – a truly paramount experience.  Amen.

 

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

 

Modern Reading from 20th century writer, Franz Kafka:

 

“Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

 

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