Remember the Epiphanies
Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday in Epiphany, Year B
March 2, 2003
Jim Killen, A minister of the United Methodist Church, Beaumont, TX
Have you been able to get “into” this whole matter of the changing of the seasons of the Church year? Lots of folks haven’t. For many, it is just something that the preachers talk about. But the seasons of the Church year are planned to help you experience, in greater depth, certain aspects of life in relationship with God. If you can get “into” it, it can add a dimension of meaning to your life.
For instance, this Sunday, we remember the experience that some of the disciples had when they went up on a mountain with Jesus to pray. There they saw Him transfigured. They caught a vision of His real significance. This is the climax of a season called “Epiphany”. Epiphany means a showing forth of God. During that season, we should have been discovering the reality and the presence and the glory of God in our world and in our lives.
This coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we will move into the season of Lent. During Lent, we will enter into the experience of the trials and the suffering that Jesus endured because of His love for a broken and hurting world. Jesus gave the disciples a hint of what was ahead as they were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration. He told them not to tell what they had seen “…until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead”. I expect that the disciples whispered to one another, “I wonder what He meant by that.” They hadn’t let themselves realize that suffering and death would be parts of the work of the Messiah. Consequently, they couldn’t realize what the resurrection was all about.
Can you enter into the experiences that these seasons represent? Let’s try it. There is much to be gained by it.
I. Can you enter into the experience of Epiphany?
The experience of the transfiguration is a good example of what Epiphany is. The disciples had come to believe that Jesus was the expected Messiah, someone of historical significance like Moses and Elijah – only more so, someone who represented God in the world. But during their time on the mountaintop, they experienced the reality of the things that they believed in a way that would stay with them for ever. And once they had experienced the showing forth of God in Jesus, it not only changed the way in which they saw Jesus, it changed the way in which they saw everything else too – themselves, others, life, everything.
Have you ever experienced the showing forth of God? Think now.
Don’t just try to remember some time when you narrowly escaped death or disaster and came to believe that God had rescued you. It is a mistake to think that God has to do just with the extremes of life. We need to think of God as having to do with the whole of our lives. Have you had experiences of God working in the everyday happenings of life. Have you experienced the showing forth of God in the goodness of some person you know who is always doing things for other people? Have you ever experienced the showing forth of God in some great beauty in the world that declares the creator’s goodness? Have you ever experienced the showing forth of God in some great love that was given to you, even though you did not really deserve it, a love that made a great difference in your life? Can you remember experiencing any epiphanies like these? Have they changed the way in which you see things?
II. Can you enter into the experience of Lent?
Many of us are not eager to enter into the experience of the trials and suffering of Jesus. We would prefer to avoid experiences like that. But life has a way of pushing us into trials and suffering. When that happens, the memory that Jesus has been through things like that can give meaning to our experiences.
Is that not so? Has the death of someone you know drawn you into grief? Have conflicts in your family robbed you of peace? Have uncertainty or anxiety, or perhaps an awareness of the limitedness of your own ability of wisdom or goodness, made you unsure of yourself and afraid to go to meet life? Has concern about all of the suffering and wrongness kept you all churned up? Has the need to act decisively in some important matter made you realize how painfully inadequate you are and how unable you are to do anything really right? If you have experienced any of these things, you have suffered some of what Christ suffered. It helps to know that Christ went down that road before you, doesn’t it?
III. What are we to do when we are living through the experiences of suffering?
It helps to know that Christ suffered what we are suffering. But, how can we get the help we need to cope with the things we are dealing with?
We can get help by remembering the epiphanies. Remember the times when you experienced the reality of God and you will know that you are not alone. There is one who understands what you are going through standing by your side and willing to help.
Remember also that Jesus mentioned the resurrection. Remember that there is a promise that there is one who is more real than our suffering, more powerful even than our death, who can bring victory out of defeat. Remember – and look forward to your Easter.