Posted on Sun, Feb 14, 2010
Messages from the Heart
Rev. Jim Merritt
February 14, 2010
Transfiguration and Valentines Day
Good morning, again. This is another day packed with opportunities for us. It is Transfiguration Sunday. It is also Valentines Day. So, before I go any further, let me wish each of you a very Happy Valentines Day. I LOVE you and I’m so pleased to be here serving among you. And I do want us to really celebrate love during our meal together right after church.
What is Transfiguration? What does it mean? Does any one of us really know? The Anchor Bible Dictionary summarizes that “Transfiguration is the name give to events that transpired in one of the passages common to the Synoptic Gospels – Matt. 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain, etc. etc. etc. and Jesus is transformed in front of the disciples; his clothes shone bright and both Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and Peter offers to build three booths (memorials) and then a cloud overshadows them and God announces that Jesus is God’s son and commands those present to “Listen to Him” or “Hear Him.” Whew, that is a mouthful and now as the late news commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “You know the rest of the story.” And so what does that mean to us. Several things
First, those who are really close to Jesus get to see who Jesus really is. Does that appeal to you? Like me, do you have a deep desire in your own heart to know who Jesus really is? You see, we can come to church and read scripture and fellowship and pray together and get some idea about who Jesus is. And not until we really experience Jesus in the deepest parts of our hearts and minds and spirits will we really know who he is. Not until then will be find ways to assimilate the lifestyle of Jesus into our own live. And when we do put in the time necessary to do all of that, God will honor us and lift us up and bless us over and over again by showing us exactly who Jesus is and what the impact is that Jesus can have on our lives. That’s what I want to experience in my spiritual journey. I want to know Jesus as fully as I can and I want to model my life after his life.
Second this Transfiguration is important because right in the middle of it we see the witness of the holy ones coming to endorse Jesus. They come to agree that YES, this really is the child of God, the one we spoke about, the one about whose coming we prophesied. And not only that, but Luke Timothy Johnson, to whose work on Luke I frequently refer, reminds us that both Moses and Elijah had their own experiences of God on top of mountains. They come to endorse who Jesus is and they come to verify that this IS God, the one true God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Elijah. They are saying, “This is the Real God, This is the Real child of God, Listen to them.” Isn’t that wonderful? Even God raises up God’s own witnesses from the dead to vouch for who God says God is. And my sisters and brothers, I’m here to tell you this morning that when we experience transfigurations like that in our own hearts and minds and in our daily lives, we will glow with light, too. We will glow with the love of Jesus. We will glow with the endorsement of all our spiritual ancestors and we will draw all people to the name of Jesus that stands above all names to the point that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the child of God and the child of humankind alive and well and living in the hearts of God’s people. Can I get a witness? Glory hallelujah how can we keep silent in the face of a message like this? A message from the heart, A message of Transfigurations of our hearts. A message that says again how much God loves us and all of creation. It’s Transfiguration Day and it is Valentines Day so let’s celebrate the love of God together this morning!
So what about love? First Corinthians 13, known as the love chapter tells us, beginning in verse 4, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. Sisters and brothers, when will we learn patience with each other? When will we learn kindness in all our affairs? When will be give up on being full of ourselves; arrogant and rude? When will we learn to let others have things their way at least some of the time? When will we simply learn how to be nice to each other; giving up on irritability and resentfulness? When will we really learn to rejoice in the truth? When will we learn how to put up with each other in the name of Jesus when we are at our worst? Will we learn the kind of love that endures ALL things, hopes All things? Will we develop Love that never ends?
Those are characteristics of hearts Transformed and Transfigured by God. Those are Messages from the Heart. “I love you even when you drive me crazy!” I may not like you very much AND there is nothing you can ever do to stop me from loving you with this love that comes from God.”
I’m going to ask you to do something about this message. In your bulletin you’ve noticed by now a pink post-it note. The season of Lent begins this coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. I’m going to ask you right now to write down one thing on that piece of paper that you will give up in order to allow God to work a transfiguration of your heart. Maybe it’s an old hurt that’s held you back, maybe an old behavior that you just cannot stop on your own, or maybe a resentment that eats away at you every day. You know what you need to do. Just right it down on that paper and hold onto it for a little while. At the end of today’s service I’m going to lead you outside to the same spot where we gathered on Christmas Eve. I have a feeling that space is going to come especially holy for us at times like this. After service I’m going to lead you out there and our deacons are going to help me make a fire so we can burn these notes. Burning is our way of letting go and letting God do what God desires to do in our hearts. To take that one step further, we’re going to gather the ashes up and they will be the ashes we impose on those who come for Ash Wednesday night’s service. We’ll be saying, “God we commit to walking with you, to letting you work in the deepest part of our hearts throughout this season of Lent as we prepare for the blessing of Easter.” Go ahead now and write them down. There are pens in your seat pockets. No one will look at them, we’ll just burn them. And for the rest of the service I encourage you to answer this question, “What am I willing to do to allow God to make a Transfiguration in my heart and life?” What am I willing to do?
I love you and I bless you and I pray every day that God will hold us all in the palm of God’s hand during this upcoming Lenten Season and way beyond. That, my friends, is today’s Message from the Heart. Amen.
 The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 6, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday 1992) 640