Anchors and Touchstones

Preached at Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma, Washington on August 3rd, 2014
The Feast of the Transfiguration-transferred.  Year A.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. It’s one of the few that we can celebrate on a Sunday.  So it must be a pretty big deal.  But apart from how cool it must have been – terrifyingly cool – what do you think is the big deal?  Why was it important in Jesus’ life?  In the lives of the three disciples who witnessed it?

What does it tell us about God, about Jesus, and about our own life with Christ?

Just a week before this, when Jesus asked his disciples, “what’s the word on the street?  What are people saying about me?”  And then he asked, “What about you?  Who do you think I am?”  At that point, Peter blurted out, “You are the Christ, the chosen one of God.  Then, almost immediately, Jesus tells them, for the first time, that he will suffer and die and be raised up on the third day.

All that happened just a week before what we heard today.  Imagine what that week might have been like for him.  Now here it is just a week later and Jesus asks three of his closest companions to come up the mountain with him to pray – to open themselves to God; to listen for God’s voice and guidance.

And God shows up, big time, along with Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is visibly changed before their eyes and the disciples hear God say almost the same words that were heard at Jesus’ baptism.  The same words that Peter proclaimed just a week earlier.
“This is my Son, my Chosen one.  Listen to him.”

Jesus was Transfigured, yes, but for the disciples, this was a Conversion Experience.  As spectacular as this experience was, their conversion didn’t begin and end on the mountain.  It continues throughout their lives.

In Jesus’ life, the Transfiguration is a turning point. He comes down the mountain and turns to make his final journey to Jerusalem.  It was probably a turning point for the disciples, as well.  While they had been following this itinerant preacher and prophet for some time, now they had some evidence, so to speak.

I’m sure that this experience served as a touchstone and an anchor later on.  In the chaos they must have felt when Jesus was arrested and crucified, they had something to hold onto; an anchor in the storm.  And then, when they were going about their ministry, proclaiming the gospel, it was a touchstone – something to help them remember who Jesus is and who they are.  They had a story to tell.  We heard it in Peter’s letter.

We all experience milestones and turning points in our lives.  Some of them may even become anchors or touchstones for us.  An anchor to help us weather the storms in our lives.  Touchstones to help us remember who we are, whose we are, our place in the world.

Most of us have experienced a certain ebb and flow in our spiritual lives.  Some of us may have had mountaintop experiences of some kind.  But while those are great and can turn our lives around sometimes, conversion is not a singular event, it’s a lifelong process.

There are so many things we can say learn from this gospel. Today I suggest two.

The first is the importance of spending time with God – in worship and prayer, in study, in listening for God’s voice and seeking Christ in others; in noticing and attending to God all around us.

The second is God offers us and calls us to ongoing conversion of life – not only for our own lives, but for the good of others.  God does the converting, but we have to show up, open and willing.  Think about our two mountain top stories this morning.

Moses goes up the mountain to be with God.  When he comes down his face is glowing – the people know that something momentous has happened.  They pay attention, even though they’re frightened.  And then he goes into the tent of meeting and to be with God throughout their journey. Each time, he first removes the veil, he’s open and receptive to what God has to offer.   And each time, he brings God’s message back to the people.

Jesus takes his disciples and goes up the mountain to be with God.  And he is transfigured.  He comes away, knowing what he is to do next and it’s not for himself.  The disciples, too, are changed.  They come down with a surety of their own path and of who Jesus is.  They are strengthened for the journey that lies ahead of them.

What are some of the turning points and milestones in your own life?  From leaving  your parents’ house to retirement, the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child or grandchild.  How have those moments continued to touch your life?  Have they anchored you?  Have they been touch stones for you?  Looking back, can you see God in them?  Maybe you can, maybe not.

What about times when you know God was acting in your life – whether it was a mountaintop experience or something small?  Were you changed?  How could that change have benefited those around you?

We show up, open and willing.
God transforms us.
Thanks be to God.