Epiphany VII+B February 15, 2015 The Rev. Robert R.M. Bagwell+
Have any of you seen the movie ADave@? In the movie ADave@, a man who looks very much like the President, is hired as a double. Later when the President has a heart attack and lapses into a coma, he is persuaded to remain in his role with the possibility that the President might recover.
Only one problem, he could not hide his true self. Bits and pieces of ADave@ manifested themselves over and over. The country excitedly thought a bout with death had brought them a new more delightfully human president. Because of his secret identity, APresident Dave@ was able to do great good and bring reform. This theme is an old one from AThe Prince and the Pauper@, to ASister Act@. When each of these characters is revealed for who they really are, people say AAh, ha!@ It all makes sense now.
Epiphanies are about "enlightenment", "revelation", and LIGHT. We began this season with the light of a star after the light of angels. This is the final "epiphany". It is a vision of the ultimate reality that God will finally accomplish in Christ Jesus. It point out that God is here and is doing something in our midst. Elijah is taken up into glory, Paul writes in one of my favorite verses, published also on my web page, of the glory God has placed inside the heart of the Christian. Scripture repetitively associates light with God. From Genesis one where he said: let there be light", through repeated manifestations of light in the plagues against the Pharaoh in Egypt, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the flight out of Egypt and the seven branch candle stand in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Scripture also notes our fear of the darkness. Darkness is associated with ignorance, falsehood, human evil and fear. We humans often fear the dark. Satan blinds with his lies and deceit. Light is associated with joy, happiness, peace and safety, as well as understanding and clarity. Darkness does not have substance. The Psalmist tells us that God's Word is a lamp for our feet and a light upon our paths. (119:105) Then later John writing in his epistles says: "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (I Jn 1:5) The story of Jesus begins and ends in light. The glory of angels, the Epiphany star and Jesus being caught up into the Light of the Father. But this light is not exclusive to Jesus. This light he shares with us. As we just read this morning: "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4) We have become in Jesus Christ, creatures of Light, not human light, but God's Light. God, the Holy Spirit fills us with God's Light., God's glory IN US. We walk around as little Tabernacles of Light. Life-giving Light.
Have you ever wondered why some are so antagonistic to God or even nonchalant? Paul gives us some insight. He tells us that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to prevent them from seeing the Light of the gospel and the glory of Christ. Our world is replete with false Gods. Lucifer is called the God of this world, but all the distractions that people find to fill up the God-void in them are as well. The contention of the Christian faith has been one that it is not God who must be foundCman=s search for GodCbut that God is eagerly, earnestly seeking human beings to bring humanity to HimselfCGod=s search for humankind. One of the Old Testament writers cries out: ACan a man by searching find God@? The resounding answer of scripture to this question is no! Yet St. Augustine said nearly 2000 years ago that there is a God shaped void in every human soul that can only be at peace in Him. There then is something in everyone that instinctively has a consciousness that God is there whether they believe it or not. Who then can know God? The person that is open to Him, open to his self revealing, who will see God=s daily actions in the world around us. That is why and how God uses us to bring our light into the lives of others that through us, God may bring his glory into their lives. Perhaps this is why Jesus took these threeCPeter, James, and John to see His transfiguration. I believe that God only reveals to us as much as we are ready, willing and able to receive. Yet without God=s manifestation to us, we may doubt that He is really there. God appointed different means to reveal Himself in history
The Law was part of God=s plan in a process of revelation and salvation. St. Paul said, Athe Law was God=s schoolteacher to bring us to Christ@. Even as now, this church, this service we attend, the programs we run, the newsletters we print, the sermons preached and the hymns sung all are designed to point us and bring us to Christ. The gospel today is the event that coined the phrase "a mountain top experience." So Moses is with Jesus in the manifestation on the Mount in today=s readingCHe who represents one of the two marks of God=s authenticity upon the people the Law. It would be as if George Washington or Abraham Lincoln showed up from the dead. They say something fundamental about who we are as a people. LaterCGod sent prophetsCmessengers reminders to the people of God=s love and concern for them. Prophets had one primary message. AReturn, return, returnCto God' Elijah was the greatest of these. Humanity seems to have a case of chronic, spiritual amnesia when it comes to God and spiritual things. Prophets were an authoritative voice for God and the people knew it, reminding them of God. What they said tended to happenCusually right awayCbut sometimes in the prophetic futureCespecially with Messiah and the teachings of God=s future kingdom. Commentators speculate that this epiphany was to prepare the disciples for the events of the crucifixion soon to come.
This event was an epiphanyCA manifestation of GodCa uniting of heaven and earth in a momentCa revelation of JesusC From this moment on the disciples would never mistake Jesus to be an ordinary manCHis veil had been lifted if only for a moment. Jesus was God=s SonCGod revealed! The voice of the Father spoke and affirmed it! Sometimes we may doubt that God is present in our lives. Often this happens when times of hardship are upon us. When Abad things happen to good people.@ When did doubt afflicted the prophet ElijahCAfter a harrowing confrontation with JezebelCthe evil Queen. He despairingly looked for God: first in a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fireCall dramaticCthen a still small voiceCand God was only in the still small voice. It is such a danger in our driven society, all the noise, all the busyness, all of the schedules, to lose God because we don=t look for him, see him or hear him. Other things are in the way. Is that not darkness? Think for a moment: where is God present in my world? If we are not looking for God to act in the still small voices, kindnesses, love and generosity of others, why should we expect him to act at other times and in other ways? "Church is not where we worship. Church is who we are.
As we approach LentCLet us give God the opportunity to manifest Himself in usCto us!! Lent is a time for us to be transfigured. We may take on voluntary disciplines to draw us closer to God. God wants to reveal himself to us and to unbelievers just to say: AI am here and I love you.@ God has spoken. Have we heard him? Or have we let other gods: in our driven society, all the noise, all the busyness, all of the schedules, separate us from the one who wants to bear us up and build us up. Have we made time and space for God? Do we gather here in this temple to that end?
If our human fleshly veils were lifted this morning and who we really are was revealedCwhat would be seen? Undoubtedly some things we would not mind others seeing and some that we wouldCGod has spared us thatCbut Lent will give us the opportunity to be transformed so that our own transfiguring will find in us the character of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is within us. Bishop Philips Brooks said that AChrist is the perfect man,@ and then reiterated that this means that as far as we personally fall short of Christ, we fall short of being fully human. It is in our best moments, not in our worst, Brooks says, that we are most genuinely ourselves. Let us pray that, this Lent he may be revealed in us and that our truest selves, most reflective of the new person in Christ who desires to live more fully in and through us may be seen. This year as we prepare to have a Holy and Spiritually deepening Lent, may we find a greater healing as we are transfigured in the glory of Jesus.
In closing, Paul wrote these words about the gospel to the Church at Colossi: "I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossian 1: 7-14)