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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Shine Jesus Shine - 03/03/2019

I’m glad February is over this year.

I don’t have anything against February in particular. There are several people who I am quite fond of who were born in February. That in itself redeems the month.

And we had a couple of really good events around here in February. The Love Feast and the card making night were well attended and a lot of fun. Truly, they were bright spots.

Also, Elaine Robbins began a Tuesday book study in February. I’m very thankful for her example of how we are all called into ministry in this Jesus-following thing we are doing together. I encourage you to consider attending. It’s not too late to join in and it’s a wonderful way to dive into your faith more deeply as we begin this Lenten season on Ash Wednesday this week.

Still, even with all that good stuff – and more – it felt like what I mostly did in February was plan stuff and then cancel it because of snow or wind or road closures or ice. And really, it wasn’t just February. It was a lot of January too.

So I’m glad to be past February and onto the part of the winter when we can begin to tell that the days are a little longer. Right now, we’re gaining about 3 minutes of daylight each day and I’ll take it.

All of this has made me think … no wonder it’s been kind of a rough winter. In addition to the short days, we’ve had big winter weather systems, one right after the other, passing over us and blotting out the sun even more. So, no wonder 5,000 international units of vitamin D supplement had trouble even touching the winter melancholies this year.

I know this isn’t just me, because the sun has been out more this week and everyone I talked to commented on it.

On Friday morning, Cathy Weymouth walked into the office with a fist full of fresh flowers and a big smile on her face. Now mind you, whenever Cathy comes in, it’s always with a big smile, but this was a little different. Terry and I were in the office too and immediately the three of us fell into cheerful chatter and laughter and we all commented on the sunshine … how glorious it felt, how it was curing cases of the cranky pants and lifting the mood of everything, how it was putting some life in the air and a little skip in our step.

And, I thought, what a wonderful image of Jesus’ transfiguration as we’ve come into this weekend, the end of our season after Epiphany.

 “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” I sang as I thanked Cathy for the flowers and the sermon starter and she headed back out into that sunshine.

I love this sunshine imagery on the backdrop of our Good News reading from Luke today. The story of the day when Jesus went back up into the mountain to pray. This time he took a few of his disciples with him and while they were there Jesus was transformed before their sleepy eyes into glorious light that must have been electrified with love and hope.

That’s what that sunshine felt like this week. It was like the transfigured Jesus, shimmering and golden, was standing on the highest hill surrounding this bay – his arms outstretched to everyone and everything that light touched. It stretched out far over town and the icy bay; out past the paper mill and Pictured Rocks; up the hill and out toward Shingleton and all the little lakes of the Hiawatha Forest, and west to our friends out in Christmas and AuTrain – and beyond even that – farther than we can possible see. You could feel the shroud of those darkest winter days lift and give way to the sunshine and its warm, to Jesus and the redemption he has brought to the whole world.

The light bathed everything in that air alive with love and hope – alive with what God has revealed to us over these days after the Epiphany. We have seen Jesus our teacher, our healer, our model of what a life of Shalom can look like. We have seen Jesus, the Messiah of God, come to free us from our sin and undermine the power of evil for good. Thanks be to God.

***

Here’s something else that happened this week – I totally meant to eliminate the optional verses in our gospel reading – the “add-on” story following the glorious transfiguration of our Lord on the mountain top.

I wanted to skip it this time around because it changes things... it demands some of our attention and pulls our gaze away from so much cool stuff happening on the mountain top – from all that glorious sunshine.

But, I forgot to delete it when we were working on the bulletin. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I had forced my hand.

And – as it so often goes with these things – once I got over myself and my little internal temper tantrum and started listening – I came to the conclusion that is “add-on” is a really important part of the transfiguration experience.

Following that glorious and creation-flooding event of Jesus’ transfiguration, this is the first thing that happens. And as we know from studying the scriptures ourselves, these kinds of sequences and contrasts are rarely coincidental.

So we look a little more closely. In this first account of Jesus’ ministry following the transfiguration, we find that Jesus has led his disciples back down the mountain again, and into the midst of the people.

They meet a desperate father whose child is terribly ill. It’s a heart wrenching scene – this father who is using everything he can muster to get Jesus’ attention and this child who is just brutalized by a mysterious condition – a demon of some kind.

This is not the family’s first encounter with the Jesus-ministry team. The disciples could not seem to help the boy when they tried, even though they had been successful with others who they encountered. Earlier in Luke it says this about the “Mission of the Twelve”:

“Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal … They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” (Luke 9:1-2, 6)

So they could help people like this.

Jesus seems to come down hard on the disciples for their failure. “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” It seems harsh. I think it can be a little challenging to get beyond this sternness and even perceived disappointment on Jesus’ part.

But as the person called to make sure we hear the Word in this place, I’m here to tell you to push yourself into this story. It’s hard to be disciplined, even by Jesus. It’s hard to admit that we may have disappointed Jesus. But sometimes we must take this discipline and perceive this disappointment as we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It’s our Christian conscience, perhaps.

And, if we let ourselves experience these uncomfortable feelings of being disciplined and being a disappointment, we cannot help but also realize that Jesus’ harshness also indicates just how serious he is about all of this.

The demon that had a hold on that poor child sure knew how serious Jesus was. “While (the child was coming to Jesus), the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness (the seriousness) of God.” (9:41-42)

This is really important to understand in what Jesus’s transfiguration story means to us.

You know, as Cathy left the office Friday to continue her work day in that beautiful sunshine, I also thought about those who could not be out in it, who were not at that moment bathed in that transformative light – like folks in the hospital or nursing home – or our snowbound friends. They might not even realize the sun shining sometimes.

Or what about people who resist being in the sunshine because they deal with brain health issues like depression or addiction, or people who feel shame or are grieving or carry heavy loads on their hearts, and so they tend to hide in the shadows of our community a little more? What about them?

That’s where this next part of the story comes in. We do celebrate the divine mountain top experience we remember on this Holy Day of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. That glorious and redeeming light bathes the whole world, even from right here on the hills of this bay.

And we also remember that glorious light does not just stay up there on that mountain top. Jesus brings it right down into the life of the ones who were not on the mountain … who do not know it’s sunny… who avoid coming out in that light.

And he taught and sent his disciples to shine that glorious light into the lives of others à just as we are sent for the same reasons and in the same ways today.

And where we fail or doubt our ability to shine the Light of Jesus into the places we go, we may feel disciplined sometimes. We might feel like we have disappointed God.

But we can also feel confident that Jesus is serious about this transfiguration business, and even in the places where we may fail or give up and walk away, Jesus will never stop bringing that glorious light of God.

Shine Jesus Shine. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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