Today’s sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration is available on the Saint Paul’s website, or you can read on.
I had the privilege of seeing two people transfigured on Saturday. Like the disciples who were weighed down with sleep, however, I almost missed it. Saturday was the Service of Ordination for Mary Alice Mathison to the priesthood. There were no children in our house on Friday evening, but for some unknown reason, my brain went into hyperdrive at 5:45am. What should have been a nice leisurely morning turned into a rush when I realized that despite waking up way too early, I had wasted two and a half hours watching Sportscenter and drinking coffee. I took everything I had to get into the shower at 8:30, when I all wanted to do was continue being a waste of space on the couch, but I did it, and I arrived in Daphne in plenty of time for the service.
As ordinations go, it was a good one: filled with beautiful music and a quality sermon. This particular service was made special at two particular moments. The first was during the holy huddle. You may or may not know this, but at the ordination of a priest, as a symbol of the collegiality of the priesthood, all the presbyters in attendance are invited to join with the bishop in the laying on of hands at the consecration of the new priest. All of us who were vested made our way forward at the appointed time, and we were joined by one of our brothers who was not wearing the funny dress. Sitting in the back row at Saint Paul’s in Daphne was the Rev. Canon Maurice Branscomb. Thack Dyson had sought him out and made sure he had a spot right next to Mary Alice during the prayer of consecration. I had the joy of standing next to Father B., and got to see his face as he thanked Thack for bringing him forward. He was transfigured: radiating joy like beams of sunlight.
The second moment came during the distribution of communion. Saint Paul’s Daphne is set up sort of in the round, with pews on three sides of the sanctuary. The clergy were seated on the south side of the altar and I had managed a front row seat. After some confusion, we were finally communed and I made my way back to my seat to watch the ballet that is communing a church full of people that don’t necessarily know the customs of the parish. While distracted by watching people dance around each other while trying to find a place at the altar, I felt a nudge from the elbow of Thomas Heard who was sitting beside me. “Look at that face,” he said. I looked up and saw Mary Alice, dressed in the red festal robes of ordination and she was transfigured: radiating joy like beams of sunlight as she shared the body of Christ with friends, family, and the occasional stranger.
Transfiguration is a beautiful sight. It is so beautiful that you really never want to see it end. Peter didn’t, he wanted to build tabernacles and just stay there on that mountain top forever. I would have been content to spend all day watching Father B and Mary Alice beam with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Of course, we don’t get to just sit and bask in the glory of God all the time. Life goes on. Jesus had a job to do, he had been told so by Elijah and Moses. It was time to begin a new exodus, this time to rescue the whole world from enslavement to sin and death. Just as quickly as the moment came, it was over. From the dazzling white of Jesus’ clothing to the terrifying darkness of the cloud that overshadowed them, Peter, James and John had seen the face of God, heard the voice of God, and now went down the mountain to join with the Messiah in doing the work of God.
In those moments when life got tough: when they couldn’t find a place to sleep; when there wasn’t enough food to eat; when the Pharisees were breathing down their necks; when it seemed like all hope was lost – the three chosen disciples could recall the beauty of the Transfiguration, and remember the words of God, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Amen.