Summary: God calls us out to be pioneers, to live off of the mountain taking the revelation of the mountain to our everday life.
Transfiguration Sunday Matthew 17:1-9 10 February 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
Have you ever felt like a pioneer? Doing something new — something you have never done before. Starting a new business, finishing University and starting a career. Some of you may have left a former country and struck out into the unknown. Some may even remember the days when this area was opened up by the homesteaders. Many of us have heard the stories of those early years.
Remember the passion, the excitement, the terror of that new experience. It was a time when there was a clarity of vision, life seemed just that much more real. The stories are told, we relive them, and once again we feel the “fire in the belly” that drove the pioneer. Nothing could stop us, nothing could match the excitement, yes there was risk but it was all worth it.
I have talked to seniors about the building of this church and they tell the story of challenge and difficulty with a fire in their eye that says it was all worth it. They tell of the sidewalk superintendents who, even though too old to be building, were there everyday. They talk of sacrifice and stepping out in faith.
Last week at the Kiwanis supper for the local clergy there was an old man who was introduced as from the Sharon School. He was asked to say a little about who they were and you could see the fire. It was as though he was returned to that day 50 or more years ago when the Awakening happened here in North Battleford which resulted in missionaries sent to many countries. There are stories in the history of the Pentecostal movement in Canada about the North Battleford awakening and I could see the passion in that man in his eighties that night.
As people of God, we are pioneer people. We come from a long tradition of pioneers, people called out of their familiar surroundings and asked to go somewhere else. Abraham was a comfortable farmer in advancing years when God told him to pick up everything and move. Moses was leading a comfortable life as a shepherd when God asked him to return to Egypt and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. The stories of the prophets are stories of people who were settled only to be asked by God to leave everything and strike out with a purpose that only God fully understood. The disciples of Jesus were constantly on the move after having left their livelihoods with only the instructions, “Follow me.”
We get a sense of the clarity of purpose, the “fire in the belly” of these people as they set about a tasks that seemed impossible but were powered by the Spirit of God. We get glimpses of their “mountain top” experiences. Times of unsurpassed clarity of vision, of powerful sense of purpose even if accompanied by difficulty. Times that were defining moments for their lives and ministry. Moses on Mount Sinai, Joshua looking to the promised land.
Today’s gospel is one such event. Jesus, accompanied by three disciples, is on a high mountain and in the sight of these disciples he is transfigured, changed before their eyes. Jesus seen for who he is, words spoken by God himself, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.” No doubt they experienced fear, no doubt they had no idea what was happening, but there was no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, that God had spoken.
The interesting thing about pioneers is that pioneers typically turn into settlers. Despite all the excitement, the challenges, the feeling of being more fully alive, we want to settle in and get comfortable. We might relive in our stories the excitement of the pioneer years but we are reluctant to step out as pioneers again.
It is interesting in the history of God’s people that the times they get into trouble were the times when they chose to be settlers rather than pioneers. The people of Israel grumbled at Moses for bringing them out into the wilderness to die when they at least had food back in Egypt. The people of Israel, during the time of the Judges, wanted the security of a king like other nations and began the sordid history of bad kings. The people were unhappy worshiping in a tent and wanted a temple. David asked to build it and Solomon finally was given permission. This led to the abuses about which Jesus preached. The greatest blasphemy Jesus could utter was to threaten the temple. In today’s Gospel Peter wants to start a building project. The Letter of Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who are torn between the security of the temple, with it safety assured by Rome, and by the claims of Jesus which they have heard and known to be true but which ask them to leave their security and follow Jesus.