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Transfiguration of Our Lord - Mark 9:2-9

My boyfriend and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day, she told me.

We celebrate the day that pitchers and catchers report.

For many Major League Baseball teams this year, that will be Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, an old English word that means spring.

It's the time of year that Christians brush up on the fundamentals for the long slog of following Jesus, who picks some strange places to go.

Today it is up the mountain, like the young men in a story told by Vin Scully.

In 1982, to end his acceptance speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Vin told far better than I will the legend of a Native American chief sending four young braves up a high mountain at daybreak.

The first three returned at various times with spruce, pine, and an alpine shrub.

The fourth returned late at night, with nothing in his hand and wonder in his eyes.

Where he had traveled there were no more plants, only ice and rock and exhaustion...and a vision with which Scully said he was now also blessed.

"Today, I saw the sea."

Today Mark tells essentially the same story.

Peter, James and John reached the summit of a high mountain and saw a view that lit up their eyes and transfigured their lives.

They saw who Jesus truly is.

Peter's incomplete hunch—You are the Messiah—is blown open with a view that no one on the ground could even begin to guess.

The small crowd and smothering cloud confirmed his singular identity as the beloved son of God, mind-bendingly more than anyone dreamed or dared to imagine.

Of course, in such fierce, relentless light, they couldn't help but also see themselves.

How small they were, how small we all are.

Just when I am wondering why on earth I am making this climb, the woods open up and I am on the top, writes Susan Mangam.

The thought "I've made it" dies with the view.

Any illusion of conquering the mountain is dispelled by the beauty rolling out endlessly in all directions.

I am lost in awe and wonder, and find myself in communion with the encircling creation.

The mountaintop vision is raw, wild, and life-giving...

In wild places wild things can happen, things that shake us to the core and remind us that our God is a wild God.

Surely the Transfiguration was such an experience for Peter, James, and John.

Testified to by the Law and Prophets, and radiant with God-light, Jesus must have been

a terrifyingly beautiful sight.

The wild is a fearful, dangerous threat to our cultural illusions of control and supremacy...

Caught up in awe and wonder, with the eyes of our heart enlightened, we see all things

permeated by the gracious presence of God, a God who will not be tethered by our ideas

about God.

We begin to see things as they really are.

God does not share this top-shelf, secret stash clarity often or off-handedly, knowing that it is far more than puny, fragile, ego-inflated humanity can handle.

Peter speaks for us all when nonsense drips from his stuttering singhole about building things to contain the great voices of the One who spread out even more than he now sees.

It's what's wrong with this and every sermon: we are babbling about mystery so pure and deep and bright and wild and wondrous that even the best words are just rudimentary shelters for giants who are larger than death.

We do better to keep silence and let the Cloud do the talking.

Now comes the stunner: the Cloud defers to someone else.

God Almighty says, listen to him.

The way God says it in Greek is more powerful: Keep listening to him.

When they looked around (to see who God was talking about), they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

How disappointing.

"Oh, it's just you."

We were hoping it would have been one of the others.


Six days earlier, Peter and Jesus had gotten into it about what being Messiah means.

Jesus said it means he has to go to Jerusalem and die, Peter tried to talk some sense into him, Jesus called him Satan...it didn't go well.

Now the Voice from heaven, the Judge of all, has ruled decisively in Jesus' favor.

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says.

Keep listening to him.

I must suffer and die, Jesus says three separate times.

Keep listening to him.

Tell no one about this until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead, Jesus says.

Keep listening to him.

Love your enemies ... pray for those who persecute you ... sell all you have and give the money to the poor; ... then come, follow me ... how hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

Keep listening to him.

Just as you did it to the least of those who are ... my family, you did it to me.

Keep listening to him.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life, a ransom for

many.

Keep listening to him.

The Voice in the cloud, the view from the mountaintop, the Shining that was scarier than the movie—God knows we need them all to keep listening and keep following because it is all downhill from here.

It's a long way down the mountain to Easter.

It's a long way down through hell to heaven.

It's a long, painful, heartbreaking trail to glory.

So God gives us a glimpse of it to keep us going.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster who saw the sea returned to the booth for another thirty-four

years, including some long stretches of bad baseball in between the memorable moments.

The people of God wander 40 years of wilderness and 40 days every year, which is spiritual boot camp to prepare us for pandemic and political catastrophe and death and betrayal and loss and all the other pain life in what we so myopically call "the real world" brings.

So to help us survive this real world, God gives us a glimpse of the Real World, the one in which the sea is just a puddle and death is just a maitre d'.

Every big hairy deal we get ourselves so excited or upset about "dies with the view."

Turn off the news and the preacher and the panic and the other noise in your head.

Clear your mind; walk up a mountain if you have to.

Open space in your head and your heart for the God who is weird and wild enough to be

born in our world, wearing our bones, and die our death and still keep going, the elecrifying face of absolute glory who is only Jesus.

Listen to him.

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