By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
February 3, 2008 Transfiguration (Last Epiphany)
Read: Matthew 17:1-9
The Transfiguration. Jesus on the mountaintop transformed, an awe-inspiring vision of the presence of God for Peter, James and John. Unmistakable.
And I wonder, what can I say about such an experience. The Bible is filled with these encounters, these epiphanies. There is Moses and the burning bush, Jacob and the ladder full of angels, Job and the voice out of the whirlwind. “They are all cracked doors between this world and some other, brighter place where God is no absentee landlord but a very palpable presence”. (B. Taylor) The Irish call these “thin places” –places where the veil between this world and the next is so sheer that it is easy to step through.
There is no shortage of epiphanies in this world. A friend tells a story about 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 Mr. Hopewell, was really looking forward to meeting Mr. Spring. You see, 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 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 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. Hopewell 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. He 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. 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. (Edward F. Markquart Lutheran pastor)
Here’s my point. We try so hard to understand. We try to throw our nets over God and haul Him in to our understanding. We try to contain God within our human ability to use language. But we’re only human. We can’t take in all of the holy light God’s given us. It’s too bright. It overwhelms us. We need God present in human form, smiling at our sorry attempts to describe the indescribable. God understands. “You’re trying too hard,” he whispers. “You don’t have to wrestle and fight and use your muscle to deserve this. God’s given it to you already. Try softer.”
Robert Fulghum, the author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, tells about a woman who was so stressed she went to see a psychiatrist. Near the end of the session, he wrote out a prescription and handed it to her. Rather than providing for medication, he gave her some instructions. “Spend one hour on Sunday watching the sunrise while walking in a cemetery.”
She didn’t want to do it. But she did, for she was desperate to find help for what was ailing her. The next Sunday morning, as the sun came up, she stood in the cemetery listening to the birds and watching the world come alive all around her. And she found herself getting in touch with her life again. There’s nothing like a cemetery to give a person perspective. And it doesn’t take a long time either.
The best and most meaningful experiences of life do not last very long. Think about it…
Can you recall that moment when Jesus came into your heart? Whether it was a private moment or very public, you knew instantly and instinctively that life would never again be the same. But it was just a flash, wasn’t it? Just a blink of the eye, and God made His presence known to you in a way you’d never know it before. And you knew what had happened. You just knew. You couldn’t quite explain it, perhaps, but you knew. That moment became a preview of the journey of faith that has brought you to this moment in life.
And the Robin told Mr. Hopewell…Spring is aaaall around you, you are living in the middle of Spring. Amen.
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