By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
The Transfiguration – March 6, 2011
Read: Matthew 17:1-9
Once upon a time, there was a bunny rabbit by the name of Mr. Hopewell. Mr. Hopewell had the unfortunate experience of being born in Minnesota. That is, it was very cold, cold, cold and very white, white, white during wintertime. Mr. Hopewell, this bunny rabbit, had never seen anything but the white of snow.
When this bunny rabbit talked to other bunny rabbits, the other rabbits always talked about spring. How magnificent and beautiful spring was. So the Mr. Hopewell, the bunny rabbit, was really looking forward to meeting Mr. Spring. Mr. Hopewell erroneously thought that spring was a person, and so he said to the other rabbits that he was really looking forward to meeting Mr. Spring. All the other rabbits laughed and laughed and laughed at Mr. Hopewell and his foolishness to think of such a thing. Mr. Hopewell did not dare to ask the rabbits any more about this Mr. Spring character because he did not want to make a fool of himself.
Time passed and soon it got warmer and warmer and warmer in Minnesota. As it got warmer and warmer all the snow melted. So Mr. Hopewell went out and said that it was time to go looking for Mr. Spring. He wanted to personally meet that person called Mr. Spring.
So the bunny rabbit, Mr. Hopewell, came up to a daffodil and he said to the beautiful daffodil, “Are you spring?” The daffodil laughed and laughed and said, “Of course I am not spring. But I would not have come out if spring wasn’t here.” Hmmm.
Mr. Hopewell went hopping along, being rather embarrassed that he did not know what spring was, and he came upon a mushroom. It was a large, beautiful mushroom and he asked, “Mushroom, are you Mr. Spring?” The mushroom laughed and laughed and said, “Of course I am not spring. But I would not have come out if spring was not here.” Hmmm. What a puzzle.
So Mr. Rabbit hopped on and came to a big fuzzy ball there in northern Minnesota. Mr. Rabbit said to the fuzzy big ball, “Are you Mr. Spring?” And the bear growled in a roaring voice, “Of course I am not spring, but I would not have woken up if spring was not here.” Hmmmm.
This rabbit could not find Mr. Spring anyplace. Mr. Rabbit started to cry and cry, his tears running down his rabbit face. About that time a robin came by and the robin said, “What is wrong with you?” Mr. Hopewell replied, “Well, I have been looking for spring. Are you Mr. Spring?” The robin, being a kinder soul, said, “O no, spring is aaaaalllll around you. You are living in the middle of spring.” Hmmmmm.
Time passed. He was no longer a little bitty bunny rabbit but he was a human being whose name was Mr. Hopewell. Mr. Hopewell was looking for the Presence and glory of God. Mr. Hopewell did not know who God really was or where to find God. Mr. Hopewell went walking through the woods one day, and he came to this large forest of old growth fir trees. These trees had giant limbs like arms and they pointed right up at the heavens. Mr. Hopewell said to the trees, “Are you God? Are you the Presence of God?” And the giant trees in nature’s majestic cathedral smiled and said, “O no, we are not God. But we wouldn’t be alive if God was not here.” Hmmm.
Mr. Hopewell was confused and he went and sat down on the banks of Puget Sound. It was beautiful that day and the sun was just setting. There was no movement of wind and it was perfectly still. The water was like glass and the reflections of the clouds were perfectly silhouetted in the water. The sun went down and made a sunbeam as golden as the clouds that gleamed in the sky. It was incredibly gorgeous and Mr. Hopewell said to the sun as it went down to set behind the mountains, “Sun, are you God?” The sun smiled as it faded underneath the mountains in the west and said, “O no, I am not God. But God is here and all around you, in the beauty of my golden rays.” Hmmm.
Mr. Hopewell was perplexed. He thought to himself, “Where can I go to find God, to find the Presence of God, the glory of God?”
For some reason or another, Mr. Hopewell went to a hospital and up to the maternity ward and saw a friend’s new born baby. The baby was crying and cooing and the mother and father were glowing with happiness and joy at the birth of their child. They had never been so happy in their whole lives and the baby cooed and gurgled. Mr. Hopewell said, “Are you God? Are you the Presence of God?” The baby just continued to coo and gurgle. Hmmm.
Mr. Hopewell finally came to a church one day. It was a majestic church with high vaulting ceilings, and there was a majestic stained glass window in the front of this church, looking like the visions of heaven from the book of Isaiah. Music filled the rafters of this church with the sounds of the magnificent choir and organ. The music cast a majestic spell over his soul. Then it all stopped. The organ stopped. The choir stopped. The movement of the bodies stopped. It was perfectly silent, and the silence was even more powerful than the music. Mr. Hopewell broke the silence when he whispered, “Are you God? Are you the Presence, the Glory, the Majesty of God?” And his questions echoed throughout the sanctuary, “Are you God? Are you the Presence? The majesty? The glory?”
The words reverberated, echoing in the perfectly harmonious sanctuary.
Mr. Hopewell went to the front of the sanctuary, and there was a Bible there on a table in the front of the sanctuary. Mr. Hopewell, becoming somewhat desperate, asked the Bible, “Are you the Presence of God?” And before there was an answer, a pastor started to preach and told the congregation of the wonderful, glorious Presence of God in Jesus Christ, that God was all around them on every side.
And Mr. Hopewell came up to the pastor and foolishly asked him, “Are you God?” The pastor laughed and said, “I have been called lots of things, but I have never been called God before.”
Mr. Hopewell finally left, heavily discouraged, trying to find the glory of God, trying to find the Presence of God. Mr. Hopewell went out to a bus stop in the front of the church, and there was an old man standing at that bus stop. Mr. Hopewell, exhausted by his journey, finally approached the old man and asked, “Sir, I have been looking for God. I have been looking for the glory of God, for the glorious Presence of God. Do you know where I could find God?” The old man said, “Why you are living in the middle of God. God is aaaaallllll around you … if you have the eyes to see.” Hmmmmm.
Now let’s go back to our gospel lesson for today…Peter and James and John are witnessing the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is one of those moments when the veil between this world and the next is thin and it is clearly a moment in which the presence of God is palpable. Notice what Peter does, a characteristic of many of us – when encountered by something beyond our reckoning, our first inclination is to do something, anything! However you read the impetus for Peter’s suggestion about 3 dwellings, it is notable that in Matthew the voice from heaven actually interrupts him, cutting him off in order first to pronounce Jesus blessed and then to command the attention of the disciples. Whatever Peter — or we — may have been thinking–there is only one thing that is needful: to listen to him, the beloved One. Second, when all is over — when Moses and Elijah are gone, the voice is quiet, Jesus’ face and clothing have returned to normal, and the disciples are left in holy awe — all that is left is Jesus. Whatever all these signs and symbols may have meant, the disciples are once again with their Lord, their teacher, their friend. This is perhaps one of the signature characteristics of Matthew. Jesus, the one whose clothes and face shone like the sun, the one standing with Moses and Elijah, the one whom the very heavens proclaim as God’s own beloved Son, will not leave them.
When all else fades — and soon enough all will become dark indeed — yet Jesus remains, reaching out in help and healing. At the very close of Matthew’s account, he will gather with these and all of his disciples on another mountain, and promise that he will be with them even to the close of the age.
Most of us have had mountain top experiences and can testify to their importance to our lives. But all of us have also had to return to the valley. At both places, and all those in between, Jesus is there, reaching out to raise us to life again. The glory of God, the Presence of Christ, the goodness of the Spirit of Christ is found in the mountaintops, down at the bottom of the valleys, and in the plains of ordinary living.
I believe that God is with us, not only on the mountaintops, but God is with us the next day at the very bottom of the mountain. We know what it is like down at the bottom of the mountain. We know what it means to experience the severe illness and death of children. We know what it means to have trauma in marriage. We know what it means to have one of our friends die much too early and much too painfully. We know what it is like to be down at the bottom of the mountain. And we know that God is with us and we know that God speaks to us there and gives us the words of hope and strength for that time. For God is with us both on the mountaintops and in the valleys. And God is with us in the plains, in the ordinariness of life.
Mr. Hopewell was born in Minnesota and he was born when it was very cold. He asked the question: “Where is spring?” Mr. Hopewell found a daffodil and asked, “Are you Mr. Spring?” “No, but I always bloom when spring is here.” Mr. Hopewell then found a large mushroom and asked, “Are you Mr. Spring?” “No, but I always come out when spring is here.” Mr. Hopewell went and found grizzly bear and asked, “Are you spring?” “No, I am not spring but I always waken when spring is here.” Mr. Hopewell was sad and finally a robin came by and Mr. Hopewell asked, “Are you spring?” “O no. Spring is aaaallllll around you. You are living in the middle of spring.” (The bunny story is taken from Pastor Markquart’s Transfiguration Sermon) Amen.
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