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Transfiguration of Our Lord - Matthew 17:1-9

Sometimes, when you are ready to give up, God gives you a transfiguration.

We got a late start on our cross country trek to South Carolina when I began

seminary.

My godmother, who is also my aunt, had generously rented a minivan and packed it full

with things she was convinced I needed.

It was also the intended rescue vehicle for my 1981 Oldsmobile which might get

overheated and die in the desert if I cranked up the eight track player too loud.

We knew we had to push, since we only had four days between the end of my summer

job and the start of my orientation at seminary, and we assumed that if I arrived

one minute late for that, the church would never let me be a pastor.

But we had a Plan, which was foolproof until the first morning.

Family drama meant a late start, which meant extra stress and speed catching up

with The Plan, which left us on the side of the western Arizona road in the searing

heat as steam rose from both the rental van and the woman driving it.

We left our unplanned hotel room the next morning at 4:00am with three days to

exchange the rental, unload and repack its contents, and complete the drive from

Kingman to Columbia, South Carolina.

If you've ever watched Smokey and the Bandit, you have the basic idea.

Driving east through a pounding rain, I worried about the timeline and Auntie's

mental health and the family I was leaving behind and wondered whether I should

just forget this pipe dream of being a pastor.


Was I being selfish, delusional, stubborn?

Was God trying to protect the church from me by keeping me out?

Is God angry at me for this?

Should I just pull over and turn around and do something else with my life?

The rain thickened, the thunder boomed.

And then, in one narrow blue ribbon of sky, the sun rose.

I pulled the Oldsmobile off to the side of the road and stepped out into the storm.

Lightning flashed to the north; sunrise blazed to the east, and against the pitch

black western sky, spanning a desert valley carpeted with flowers, blazed a fully

half-circular double rainbow.

Nature was transfigured.

Auntie asked what was wrong now?

But I just stood there in that baptismal rain, soaked to my soul with new clarity.

That glimpse carried me the rest of the way, that long drive and ever since.


God knew that the disciples of Jesus had a long, hard road ahead of them, much more

daunting than the climb up the high mountain.

It began six days earlier with the outset of the crazy journey named church.

After some time on the gossip and rumors, Jesus asked his disciples, But who do

you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus handed him the keys and said "I'm starting my church."

It was a beautiful moment that vanished like a rainbow.


Jesus quickly gave the disciples a gag order and told them he was headed to

Jerusalem to die.

Peter took him aside to correct him.

Jesus called him Satan and a stone that trips people.

Within five minutes of starting the church there was a disagreement and name calling.

Within a week Pastor Peter was pitching a capital campaign for new buildings.

Two thousands years down the road, have we come any farther?

God knew the Jesus journey named church had, and still has, a long way to go.


God also knows, from personal experience, that the road to true glory goes downhill.

The path to salvation leads Jesus from heaven to here.

The path to Easter goes through the cross.

The path to joy goes through pain.

The path to love goes through sacrifice and loss.

Parenthood means sleepless nights and championships mean sweat and ache and the mission of God, to reconcile all creation, means birth in a barn and death on a

cross and a lot of sore, dusty feet and broken hearts in between.

God knows it will be hard for these disciples to hang in there with Jesus.

Building life on the foundation of his words in the real world is much harder than

building three homes in the hills.

Living the Jesus way of loving enemies and blessing those who oppose you and going

the extra mile or six