Quinquagesima 2022 – Sermon

Exodus 34:29-35​​
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-43a
February 27, 2022
St. Mary’s Regina
Transfiguration Sunday
Year C
Revd. Paula Foster

From our first reading this morning we hear these words: “when Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses (returning from the mountain), the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.” From the gospel of Luke we hear these words: “And while Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white…and the disciples were afraid.”  Both men climb a mountain; Moses by himself and Jesus with three close companions. Both men encounter God.  Moses returns with physical evidence of his conversation…..the 10 Commandments carved in stone and a face that shone with a brightness that was hard to look at.  Jesus has witnesses, but they are terrified by what they saw and heard and kept silent about it all until a later time. 

Obviously, coming face to face….having an encounter with God changes us.  It results in a transfiguration that is difficult if not impossible to explain.  I suspect that it can be intimidating to look into eyes that have seen God’s glory….seen the world as God sees the world…..seen us as God sees us. Moses’ face shone because “the Lord had been speaking to him.” 

Who makes your face shine? In whom do you see the Glory of God revealed? I’d like to share a true story with you.  A few years ago, a bunch of us from the Diocese of Saskatoon, went down to Mexico to build 2 houses for two very needy families.  While we were there we visited a school.  This school was unlike anything I had ever seen. It consisted of 2 buildings the same size as the houses we were building which I think were 20 x 24 ft. All the elementary school-aged children of this village went to this school. All of them…some attended in the morning and some in the afternoon because the building was not big enough for them all to attend together. The classrooms were filled with projects and art work and the kids were eager to share their work with us. Outside, there was not a tree in sight or a blade of grass.  The ground was hard, baked by the hot sun. It was dusty. There was no playground or embellishments of any kind with the exception of a very old swing set. The poverty of the place was stifling.  

As the bus pulled into the schoolyard, the children spilled out of the buildings to greet us.  Both groups were timid, these children and these Canadians…..a little unsure of what was expected……how to communicate……where a  connection could be made between our vastly different worlds.  Children being who they are were the first to “invite” us into their world…..through play.  Do you remember how to play?  Do you remember the joy, the competition, the sense of excitement when you had an audience….the full attention of adults?  It did not take long before we were playing with them….pushing them on the rusty, squeeky swings, watching the boys do tricks with their wooden tops, spinning them on the hardened ground, spinning them in their hands, spinning them from one outstretched hand onto another. In no time at all, we all relaxed. It was amazing to watch this transformation take place!  Suddenly a wooden bat appeared and an old tennis ball was found. BASEBALL!! We formed two teams, Mexico vs. Canada, and the game of the summer was underway.  No gloves, no bases and everyone could play.  

Timidity and uncertainty melted away and laughter and trust moved in. The things that separated us were no match for the joy we found in being with each other….in sharing time and hearts.  You could see it in our faces and especially on theirs.  It was a glorious give and take.  Over the two weeks we were there, there were scenes of laughter, singing and joy with people who lives were harsh…..who lived on less money than what most of us had brought with us. 

One of the families for whom we built an addition onto their small house insisted on making us “lunch” when we finished their house. There were 16 of us all together. This wasn’t a peanut butter and jelly sandwich kind of lunch.  This lunch consisted of several different chicken dishes, vegetables, rice and beans, a delicious stew, freshly made tortillas and dessert.  We were overwhelmed with their generosity towards us.  Because we had been with them for two weeks, we knew how little they had to live on. We wondered how they had managed to prepare such a feast for us.  We discovered that 4 women had cooked over a wood campfire for two and a half days just to feed us.  And they had killed all of their chickens to make our meal.  There would be no more eggs to sell, no more meat for themselves.  (pause)  It was more than a meal, it was everything they had and they gave it ALL to us in gratitude for what we had done for them.  

It was a humbling experience for all of us.  As we looked around us, many of us saw the face of God within the lives and in the faces of the people we met. And we were changed/transformed by this experience.  To say that it was life changing, doesn’t begin to describe what happened spiritually within our lives.  We had seen the Glory of God on the faces of people who live in unbelievable poverty and hardship.  Their faces glowed with gratitude and joy.  We went to Mexico to help 2 families.  We went to build 2 very small houses.  But we were blessed abundantly, by them….who had “nothing” to give.  

For unexplained reasons, most of us will never have the kind of mountain top experiences of Moses and the disciples.  (If you have had one, please share it with us as we need to be reminded that God can still speak with/to us.)  Mountaintops are not for every one.  Most of us live in the valleys, looking for evidence of God through the everyday and ordinary events and people in our lives.  I believe that we will find God wherever we search for God. We just have to be open/receptive, trusting that God wants to be seen/found by us.  

We see the face of God in the faces of other people….ordinary people whose lives intersect our own in ways that defy our imagination.  We tread on holy ground together as we form new friendships and share our experiences of holiness. Before we left, we were able to buy 5 chickens and gave them to our hostess, Maria, as a way to thank her and her family for their gracious hospitality.  She accepted them with joy and a little later I looked for her to tell her goodbye.  I found her in the chicken area, holding one of the hens and crying as she thanked God for the chickens.  Gathered all around, faces shone with the light of God’s glory.  

Our communities become stronger whenever we worship and gather around the altar to receive the body and blood, bread of life, cup of salvation that we desperately need to transform our lives into lives that shine with the brightness of the love of God.  Our face may be the face through which God is made known to someone else…someone who needs to “SEE” God and experience God’s love. Let your love for God shine out into our world.    AMEN.