February 23, 2020
Like most kids when I was young,
I hated going to the dentist.
When you’re older you can
sometimes learn to deal with
but kids, I don’t think ever do.
But as I was in the dentist chair,
I was able to get through the whole thing
because I knew that after I was done,
I would get a trip to the treasure chest.
Oh, the treasure chest!
It was this giant - we’ll it was giant at the time –
wooden treasure chest. Maybe it was plastic.
And it was filled, filled with prizes:
little toys, bubble gum, candy, balloons, high bounce balls,
everything of my fantasies when I was a little kid.
Just knowing that the treasure chest was there
made it tolerable to have a strange man
shove his hands in my mouth and cause me pain.
I could get through the pain and discomfort
because I knew that something good was coming up.
I had a vision of something better to come.
That’s what visions are for.
They get us out of our fear and pain,
out of the panic of right now,
and they give us a vision of a better future.
Visions can be powerful things.
Not only do they help us get through the bad times,
they drive us to create what we imagine and see.
A vision. Hope of what is to come.
This is Transfiguration Sunday,
We hear the story of how Jesus
brought his three closest disciples
onto the mountaintop to pray.
And when they get there, they see a vision.
Now they had been with him a while now.
We’re already in chapter 17 here
They had seen and heard some amazing things,
They had also seen and heard some scary and terrible things.
And immediately before this trip up the mountain,
Jesus tells his disciples the scariest thing of all.
He tells them that he will go to Jerusalem and undergo
great suffering and be killed.
The disciples were surely anxious and full of dread.
Maybe they were wondering whether they did the wrong
thing leaving their nets behind and following Jesus.
Maybe they should have just stayed home.
Peter, James, and John were probably
steeped in these concerns while they’re all up there praying.
But then they see their friend, Jesus –
The one whose ministry they were just doubting –
transformed, changed, dazzling white, glorified and perfect.
and standing with their two most beloved prophets:
Elijah and Moses.
This is not just a miracle for the sake of a miracle.
It is a vision. A vision of hope for the disciples to keep with them
in their back pockets as they go on their way
and follow Jesus to the end.
We know that beyond this chapter,
the story is not so wonderful.
They don’t stay on top of the mountain,
they go back down the mountain.
They meet demons and evil spirits.
And they do go to Jerusalem, and there they find
doubt, pain, denial, abandonment, great suffering, and death.
But the leaders have this vision with them.
A vision of Jesus, Jesus resurrected.
A vision of hope for them to travel with.
Something that tells them that the trouble will all be worth it.
No matter how dark it gets, God’s will get the last word.
God has not left us alone in this world.
God gives us visions to help us on the road
As Christians, we don’t have visions of toys in a treasure box.
We have visions of justice, end to war, end to poverty.
We have visions of eternity, where all people are gathered
together, where everyone knows and experience God’s love.
And we see glimpses of those things :
in our worship, in our music and prayer,
in our children when they understand and serve and help
When we serve and help others,
when we feed people in the food pantry,
when we build houses,
when we gather together to help other people,
we can see a glimpse of that vision.
A glimpse of the glory of God.
And it keeps us going through the tough times.
Whenever I hear about Transfiguration,
and the disciples’ trip up to the mountaintop,
I always remember this Martin Luther King Jr. speech.
It’s been called “I’ve been to the mountain top”
that he gave before striking sanitation workers in Memphis:
https://youtu.be/e49VEpWg61M (click the link to see it)
I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
This speech is all the more poignant because
it was given on April 3rd, 1968.
the next day he was shot and killed.
Even though he knew there was still
so much work to be done,
Even though he seemed to know he would be killed,
He had a vision, he knew that God would prevail.
Like James and Peter and John, he had been to the mountain top.
He had seen a vision of God’s glory.
That gave him confidence that his
hopes would be reality one day.
Even in the face of death,
it gave him the courage not to give up.
God gives us visions.
Visions of hope in our times of trial.
Visions of love, justice, peace,
hungry people fed, housing for everyone, no more racism,
No more tears, no more, sickness, no more violence, no more sorrow.
Our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.