Sermon: Last Epiphany RCL A – Glory

The podcast is available here.

Visiting Ireland, Boudreaux walked into a bar in Dublin, ordered three pints of Guinness and sat in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finished them, he came back to the bar and ordered three more.

The bartender said, “You know, Boudreaux, a pint goes flat after I pour it. Wouldn’t you rather I pour fresh pints for you, one at a time?” Boudreaux replied, “Well, you see sha, I have two brothers. One is now in Nova Scotia and the other in France, and me, mais, I’m from Louisiana. When we all left home, we promised we’d drink this way to remember the days when we drank together.” The bartender admitted that this was a nice custom and left it there.

Boudreaux became a regular in the bar and always drank the same way: He ordered three pints and drank them in turn. One day he came in and ordered two pints. All the regulars noticed and fell silent, speculating about what might have happened to one of the absent brothers.

When Boudreaux went back to the bar for a second round, the bartender said, “Hey, Boudreaux, I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.”

Boudreaux looked confused for a moment and then a light dawned in his eye, and he laughed and said, “Oh, no, no, no, arrybody’s fine. I’ve just given up drinkin’ for Lent!”

The week before last I had the opportunity to go down to New Orleans and do a bit of Mardi Gras.

This past week I had influenza A also known as the flu which of course was my penance for going down to New Orleans and doing a bit of Mardi Gras. Fear not, I am medically cleared to once again be among the living.

If you think back to Christmas, you will recall that we heard the opening prologue of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” A bit further, John writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Since Christmas, we have been hearing about how this “glory of the one and only Son” was further revealed, and it began with the Epiphany (it takes place on January 6th each year), which celebrates the visitation of the wisemen and the revealing of the glory of God to the Gentiles.

Following the Epiphany, we read about Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple, where the Prophet Simeon also declared Jesus glory:

“Lord, you now have set your servant free
To go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the savior,
Whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A light to enlighten the nations,
And the glory of your people Israel.”

Then there was his baptism. The dove, the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him and the Father declared Jesus’ glory to all who were present: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus further revealed his glory in the calling of the disciples and in the great wisdom he showed through his teachings.

Think also about how Jesus said, “A city on a hill cannot be hid.” Ask yourself this, in saying that, could Jesus have been alluding to his own crucifixion and the glory to come? A city on a hill… a cross on a hill that all can see. A city built with Jesus as the cornerstone and the cross as the very foundation. A city which gives light, gives glory to all the world. And not only that, but a city of which you are a part, not only of the building, but of the glory itself, and like Jesus, you are called to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

You know how when you’re sitting out on a lake on a bright sunny day and there’s just enough of a breeze to cause a few small waves across the water. And on occasion, one of those small waves reflects the sunlight back to you perfectly and there is this sudden flash of light. It’s really all you can see. That’s what our readings have been like since Christmas. These sudden flashes of Jesus’ glory, but today: “Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Not a quick flash of light, but a full revealing.

What can be confusing is that we are so close on Christmas, that we can mistakenly believe that the Transfiguration of Jesus took place early in his ministry, but in the life of Jesus, he has already turned toward Jerusalem. Not only is this day a day when the glory of Christ is fully revealed, it is also the beginning of the journey to the Cross: for Jesus, the disciples, and for us, so what significance would the Transfiguration have had on the disciples and how can it assist us as we begin?

The African Impala is one of those amazing creatures in God’ creation. A bit like a deer in build. They can get up to 40 miles per hour when in a flat out run. That’s a pretty good clip, except when you are in a foot race with a cheetah who can hit 75 miles per hour in short burst. Given the cheetah likes a little venison for supper, it would seem that the Impala wouldn’t have a chance, but the Impala has learned a couple of tricks. One, stop on a dime and make a sharp turn. Cheetah’s have breaks, but they’re not that good. Second trick of the Impala, the ability to jump up to ten feet in the air. I think they rely more on the quick turn when in a race for their life, but I can see where jumping ten feet in the air might come in handy. Either way, the “supper time” routine has played out between these two since the beginning. What’s interesting about the Impala is that placed in a zoo, even though they can jump ten feet high, they can be confined to an enclosure that has only a three foot wall. Why? They won’t jump anywhere if they can’t see where their feet will land. They are confined by what they can’t see.

At the time leading up to the Transfiguration, perhaps Jesus understood this same issue with the disciples. Perhaps he knew they would follow, but in order to do so, to get through the trials and suffering and sorrows that were to come, they would need to see where their feet would land, they would need to see the glory that was to be revealed… not just a flash, but the glory in all its fullness. Archbishop Michael Ramsey wrote, “The Transfiguration is the revelation of the potential spirituality of the earthly life in the highest outward form. Here the Lord, as Son of Man, gives the measure of the capacity of humanity, and shows that to which he leads all those who are united with him.” In the Transfiguration, Jesus makes known to us, not only his glory, but our glory that is to come, and it is in that glory that we find our hope. A hope that sees us through trials and a hope that walks with us as we go the way of the Cross. As St. Paul said to the Romans, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Since Christmas, we have been walking up the mountain and now Jesus has fully revealed himself and who we will become. Now… now we must begin the descent into the valley of the shadow of death. It is a place of great trials, so as you go, listen for the voice of the Shepherd, watch for signs of his glory, and keep his revealed glory ever before you, knowing that where he is, you will be also.

Let us pray: O God, who before the passion of your only begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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