Let me start my sermon today by reading a scripture to you. This is from
Six days later Jesus took Peter,
James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high
mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and
his clothes became as white as light.
Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord,
it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you,
one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, look, a
bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son
whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” Hearing this,
the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.
But Jesus came and touched them. “Get
up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except
As they were coming down the
mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the
Human One is raised from the dead.”
Anna Murdock is a lay servant.
In other words she is a not a pastor, but a lay person like all of you. But
she has written on this passage more beautifully than many clergy could. It is
called Shhh…Listen and appears in
their church newsletter from Statesville NC.
She beings by quoting C.S. Lewis who wrote that “We may ignore, but we can
nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with God. God walks
everywhere incognito. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to
come awake. Still more to remain awake.”
Although I recommend reading the entire article, here are a couple of
“God is with us, incognito, as Lewis writes. But oh, when the veil is
lifted and a portion of the glory of God’s presence is revealed to some … what
happens then? There is no mistaking that something extraordinary has happened
and there is indeed an awakening.’
“Some call this moment of revelation a “Thin Place.” I have a dear friend
who calls such a time a “heaven-touching-earth moment.” For me, I refer to this
as a “God-moment.” There are no words to adequately give name to the moment
when the Divine Veil has been lifted in a person’s presence. The radiance, the
glory, God’s presence and our deep desire to put an experience such as this
into immediate words all cause some stammering on our part. There is even
confusion as to what has taken place. It is then when a holy finger presses
against our lips and we hear, “Shhh … This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
And so, the Divine Veil is lifted if only for a moment. The Holy is so radiant
that we could easily be blinded yet, in such a heaven-touching-earth moment,
there is tremendous love. “Shhh … Listen! Listen to him first before finding
your own words.”
“For those who have recognized a time when the Most Holy has chosen such a
moment of revelation, there seems to be a quietness about the experience for a
period of time. Something so amazing, so intimate, so private is beyond our
words. But there must be a reason for such a “mountaintop” experience. There
must be a reason to find oneself in the presence of God Almighty, knocked face
down by such holiness. Perhaps it is so that our hearts might hear “This is my
Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Shhh…listen to him!” It is the
voice of the Most Holy that beckons us to believe in and listen to Jesus in a
Isn’t that wonderful!
Anna Murdock has reminded us first that the world is crowded with God. That
God has filled all the cracks and crevices of creation. But too often we are
asleep and we don’t notice. Our minds, our hearts are on autopilot and we don’t
notice that God is right there, so close, ready to speak to us. Can you
remember a time when you were awakened to the Holy, the mystical?
Because when we wake up, when our senses become aware and alert to the
things of God, we may experience a true heaven touching earth moment, when we
like the disciples hear God saying, “Shhh…Listen. This is my Son!”
And then Anna reminds us that our job is to do exactly what God just said, we
are to actually allow ourselves to be without words for a while, to let the
experience be beyond words, while we listen, while we experience God.
Honestly, it is a great reflection.
But here is my question for you: what would it take to wake you up, so that
you can see just how crowded with God the world is? Would it be doing more? Or
would it be doing less, finding stillness, taking time to see and listen?
I suspect it would be the second. What could you do in your life to create
more space for such holy and transforming encounters?
As you read the bible passage, one thing that Peter seems to show us is
that often our initial reaction is to reach for the past, to cling to old ways.
He wants to build a temple, a monument, like they did long ago. He is stuck
thinking about the good old days and how people used to do things.
But the focus of the moments with God is seldom on the past, it is almost
always on what is next, where God is going, what God is doing in the future. In
the bible passage God is showing the disciples what is yet to come, how Jesus
will be glorified, and how Christ will fulfill the law and the prophets.
Likewise, when we encounter God, one of the dangers is that we will cling
to the past. Try to build temples and monuments to what has happened rather
than use God’s message to move into the future. It is true that God’s message
may bring healing for the past, but it is so that we can move into tomorrow.
That message may draw from the power of the past, but it is so God can do
something new. There is a push and a movement from our moments with God that is
meant to be transforming of our future.
My experience of God moments is that God is challenging me.
There is the moment when God grabs my attention, the strange tingling of
goosebumps as I realize that God is near, that sense of awe and power and a
realization that I am not worthy of this presence of God. It is as though God
is making me be silent so that I will listen.
And then comes the challenge. Perhaps it is to reach out to a certain
individual, perhaps it is to change my behavior, perhaps it is to look at a
certain path of ministry for the church, perhaps it is simply to remind me that
God is very real.
Always it is like being awakened to something that I had not seen before. A
new reality stands before my eyes, clearly, and powerfully. God has something
for me to do. This moment is not just so that I feel good, but so that I
will live differently. It is meant to change my focus in life.
What I have discovered about these moments is that the more open I am to
them, the more that I am looking for them, the more often they happen. When I
wake up and realize that the world is crowded with God – I actually experience
God more often.
I suspect that that is the same for all of us. When we start looking for
God in our daily lives, God soaks into the spaces in life we never expected. We
begin to change our focus in life.
So if I could snap my fingers, just like that, and you could see God right
now, I would do it.
But imagine for a moment that that is true. Imagine that God is active in
your life, that God is present. If God were here right now telling you to be
still, to listen, what would God be telling you? And what new thing would God
be showing to you about your future? What challenge does God hold for you?
And don’t try to put it into words, because it may not be possible right
away. It may only be a moment of amazing intimacy with God, which leaves us
stammering, but shows us a picture of where God wants us to be. And remember
the world is crowded with God. These moments and these challenges are around us
all the time. That is how we grow!