The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Luke 9:28-43a

JESUS TOOK HIS INNER CIRCLE OF DISCIPLES, PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN, AND CLIMBED UP A HIGH MOUNTAIN TO GET AWAY FROM THE CROWDS FOR A BIT AND PRAY. WHEN THEY GOT TO THE TOP, THE DISCIPLES WERE WEIGHTED DOWN WITH SLEEP, AS THE GREEK TEXT SAYS, AND COULD HARDLY KEEP THEIR EYES OPEN EVEN TO PRAY. SINCE THEY DID JUST MANAGE TO STAY AWAKE, THEY SAW THE MOST AWESOME AND AMAZING SIGHT. THEY SAW JESUS IN THE FULNESS OF HIS GLORY TALKING WITH MOSES AND ELIJAH. WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT WAS JESUS’ DEPARTURE WHICH HE WAS TO ACCOMPLISH IN JERUSALEM. THE WORD FOR DEPARTURE IN THE GREEK TEXT IS EXODUS; THE SAME WORD USED FOR GOD’S SAVING ACTION IN BRINGING THE JEWS OUT OF SLAVERY IN EGYPT. THIS VISION OF THE GLORIFIED LORD WAS NOT FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE DISCIPLES, WHICH IS WHY THEY WERE SO SLEEPY, BUT WAS FOR JESUS HIMSELF; TO STRENGTHEN HIM FOR THE ORDEAL TO COME.

THE REACTION OF THE DISCIPLES TO THIS VISION WAS, OF COURSE, THE WRONG ONE. THEY HAD GIVEN UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW JESUS FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, AND THEY HAD BEEN HOPING AND WAITING FOR SOME SIGN OF GREAT POWER AND GLORY FROM HIM, LIKE BECOMING KING AND RESTORING THE THRONE OF DAVID, KICKING THE ROMANS OUT OF JUDAH, OR TAKING OVER THE TEMPLE, BUT WHENEVER IT LOOKED LIKE THINGS WERE GOING IN THAT DIRECTION, JESUS WOULD WALK AWAY FROM IT. THIS EVENT, HOWEVER, WAS JUST WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR, SO THEY WANTED TO HANG ON TO IT, TO CLING TO IT, AND MAKE IT LAST. PETER’S SUGGESTION THAT THEY BUILD THREE SHELTERS FOR JESUS, MOSES, AND ELIJAH, WAS ANSWERED BY THE FRIGHTENING DESCENDING CLOUD AND THE COMMAND FROM HEAVEN; THIS IS MY SON, MY CHOSEN; LISTEN TO HIM!

MEANWHILE, DOWN IN THE VALLEY, THINGS WERE NOT GOING WELL AT ALL. THE REST OF THE DISCIPLES WERE DOWN THERE WAITING FOR THE RETURN OF JESUS AND THE OTHER THREE. APPROACHED BY A MAN PLEADING WITH THEM TO DO SOMETHING FOR HIS SON, THEY EITHER COULD NOT, OR WOULD NOT. PERHAPS THEY DID NOT THINK THEY HAD THE POWER TO DO ANYTHING, OR THEY DID NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY, OR MAYBE THEY JUST WANTED TO WAIT UNTIL JESUS RETURNED. IN CONTRAST TO THE REVEALED GLORY ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP, THE SCENE IN THE VALLEY IS OF CHAOS AND CONFUSION. WHEN JESUS RETURNED TO THE VALLEY THE NEXT DAY, AND WAS BEGGED BY THE MAN TO LOOK AT HIS SON, HIS WORDS TO HIS DISCIPLES WERE NOT WHAT ONE WOULD CALL ENCOURAGING; “YOU FAITHLESS AND PERVERSE GENERATION, HOW MUCH LONGER MUST I BE WITH YOU AND BEAR WITH YOU?”

YOU MAY REMEMBER THAT BEFORE THAT GOT TO THIS POINT, THEY HAD BEEN ASKING IF JESUS WAS GOING TO RESTORE THE KINGDOM OF DAVID, WHO WOULD SIT AT HIS RIGHT AND LEFT HANDS, JOCKEYING FOR POSITION, AND LOOKING FOR THE GLORY TO COME; DOING EVERYTHING BUT LISTENING TO HIM. OH, THEY HEARD HIM, BUT THEY WERE NOT REALLY LISTENING TO HIM. THEY WERE GUILTY, AS ARE WE ALL, OF SELECTIVE HEARING; THEY HEARD WHAT THEY WANTED TO HEAR, AND BLOCKED OUT THE REST. THEY WERE ON THE WAY TO JERUSALEM, WHERE JESUS WAS GOING TO DO SOMETHING GREAT, BUT THEY BLOCKED OUT ALL THAT STUFF HE KEPT TELLING THEM ABOUT HIS SUFFERING AND DEATH. FOR THEM, IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE GLORY OF THE MOUNTAIN TOP, AND NOT THE CHAOS AND CONFUSION OF THE VALLEY.

I WAS RECENTLY ASKED WHAT I WOULD SAY TO SOMEONE ABOUT COMING TO GRACE CATHEDRAL TO WORSHIP, AND I REPLIED THAT IT IS A WARM AND WELCOMING CONGREGATION WHERE THE BEAUTY OF THE LITURGY IS ENHANCED BY THE GLORIOUS MUSIC MINISTRY, OR WORDS TO THAT EFFECT. FOR ME, WORSHIP, WHILE IT IS MY DUTY TO GOD, IS ALWAYS A MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE. IT IS WHERE WE COME TO BE RENEWED, TO BE STRENGTHENED FOR THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM; IT IS WHERE WE COME TO LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF THE SON, THE CHOSEN, BUT IT IS NOT WHERE THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM TAKES PLACE. THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM TAKES PLACE IN THE VALLEY, WHERE MUCH IS CHAOS AND CONFUSION.

THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM IS NOT EASY, AND IS OFTEN VERY HARD AND DEMANDING. IT IS GETTING UP EARLY TO SCRUB POTS AT “LET’S HELP” BEFORE COOKING ALL MORNING, AND THEN GRACIOUSLY SERVING THOSE WHO ARE HUNGRY. IT IS GIVING UP YOUR DAY OFF TO MAKE SANDWICHES FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD. IT IS SITTING BY THE BEDSIDE OF THE SICK AND TRYING TO MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE. IT IS HOLDING THE HAND OF THE DYING, AND SINGING TO THEM ABOUT THE LOVE OF JESUS. IT IS PUTTING YOUR SELF BETWEEN OTHERS IN CONFLICT AND TRYING TO BRING PEACE. IT IS GIVING OF YOUR OWN TO THOSE IN NEED. IT IS IN FORGIVING THOSE WHO HURT YOU. IT IS IN BEING THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD. NONE OF THIS IS GLORIOUS, AND FOR MOST OF IT YOU WILL GET VERY LITTLE RECOGNITION, AND, OFTEN, YOU WILL FACE REJECTION; AND SOME TIMES PERSECUTION. IF YOU DO THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM IN THE VALLEY REALLY WELL, AND IF YOU REALLY LISTEN TO JESUS, YOU WILL FIND THAT YOUR REWARD IS MORE WORK.

THERE IS NO GLORY IN THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM; WHICH IS WHY WE GATHER HERE EACH WEEK FOR THE TRANSFIGURING EFFECT OF WORSHIP. HERE WE ARE CHANGED, RENEWED, GIVEN A FORETASTE OF THE GLORIES TO COME, AND SENT BACK OUT INTO THE VALLEY WHERE THE REAL WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE. REMEMBER WHAT MOSES AND ELIJAH WERE DISCUSSING WITH JESUS; HIS DEPARTURE, HIS EXODUS, THE SAVING ACT OF REDEMPTION HE WAS TO ACCOMPLISH AT JERUSALEM. HE WAS STRENGTHENED AND RENEWED FOR WHAT HE HAD TO DO BY A BRIEF RESTORATION OF HIS GLORY, AND WE ARE STRENGTHENED AND RENEWED BY A BRIEF FORETASTE OF GLORIES TO COME SO WE CAN DO WHAT WE HAVE TO DO. IN OUR DOING WHAT WE HAVE TO DO, ALL WILL BE ASTONISHED AT THE GREATNESS OF GOD.

THERE IS NO ROAD TO GLORY EXCEPT THROUGH THE CROSS OF CHRIST, THE SON, THE CHOSEN. THIS COMING LENT IS THE TIME TO REFLECT ON THAT FACT, PICK UP WHATEVER CROSS HE GIVES EACH OF US TO BEAR, AND DO WHAT OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN COMMANDS US TO DO; LISTEN TO HIM!
AMEN.

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