“Approaching Inevitable Change”

Mark 9:2-9

Transfiguration of the Lord – 14 February 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

| Centering Prayer |

There are occasions in life

Where change becomes inevitable.

It’s a tipping point, or

A singularity.

The confluence of age and circumstances,

Beliefs and values,

Faith and passion

Are taken from the cupboard and refrigerator,

Combined into a mixing bowl,

Poured into a Pyrex dish,

Placed in the oven,

And the temperature is set.

In time

The transformation from raw ingredients

Into a delicious Methodist-style casserole is complete.

The only remaining task

Is for the cook

To make the change;

From stove to table.

Change became inevitable.

For my mother

Inevitable change occurred one day at the Malta Home,

A home for orphans and the aged

Operated by the Knights of Malta,

Outside Lewistown, Pennsylvania.

It would have been 1940.

My mother was a sixteen old orphan,

Her father dying of typhus when she was an infant.

Her older brother, my uncle Dick, showed up under cover of night.

He offered to spring her from childhood bondage

And take her into his home.

Should she stay or should she go?

Life came to a head and change became inevitable.

For my father

Inevitable change occurred when his naval ship was under attack.

Kamikazes had been unleashed

And it was his duty to take the watch in the middle of the fire and fury of battle.

If Leyte Gulf wouldn’t swallow him whole,

He’d become a pastor, a preacher of the Gospel,

He fervently promised the Lord.

Like Jonah he attempted to avoid the inevitable

Until the age of 42,

24 years later,

The year being 1968,

When he turned from the corporate world

And began the ordination process to become a parish pastor. 

Life had come to a head and change became inevitable.

For myself

Inevitable change occurred one March day in Boston exactly forty years ago.

Between collegiate hockey games at the Garden,

My friend brought me to the United Methodist seminary at Boston University.

Exiting the chapel

I looked up to see the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.

God spoke.

It was time to leave the shoreline behind.

It was time to fish other seas.

Life had come to a head and change became

As inevitable as rain.

Where are the places in your history

When you faced inevitable change?

What was God’s role?

Are you poised on the precipice of inevitable change right now?

What is God’s current role in your life?

Can you trust in God’s cooperation and support

To see you through the inevitable?

….

Jesus had reached the point of inevitable change.

This season after the Epiphany is

Bookended with the words of God,

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

This proclamation came from the clouds at the baptism of Jesus

The first Sunday following the Epiphany.

These words are spoken again today at the transfiguration of Jesus,

The final Sunday after the Epiphany but before Lent.

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

(Mark 1:11b and Mark 9:7b)

In between these past five Sundays

We have tasted a sampling of his Galilean ministry.

(We will return after Pentecost

for a more complete diet of Jesus and his Galilean ministry)

Over these past few weeks,

We have heard that

Jesus taught with authority in the synagogue.

He cast out demons.

He healed the sick.

He raised the dead.

Crowds had been attracted to him for obvious reasons.

Pressure mounted.

Jesus had to retreat to quiet places

To recharge and replenish the drain on his spiritual life.

Addressing one person from a crowd at a time

The demand for his touch

Overwhelmed his ability to supply the world’s needs.

Personal ministry didn’t scale for the God of creation.

Change became inevitable.

God sent his Son into the world

That who so ever believed in him

Would be saved and inherit eternal life.

Jesus came to the world,

Not just to those who appeared at his door

Or those who were lowered through his roof.

The tipping point reached its symbolic climax on that mountain top.

The presence of Elijah and Moses signified the apocalyptic end of the prior age.

The transfiguration of Jesus,

His clothing and face becoming dazzling white,

Announced the dawn of a new age,

A new world order filled with hope and promise.

It was time to pivot.

It was time to wheel South,

Head for Jerusalem, and

Embrace his divinely expected destiny.

Jesus would leave Galilee for the last time,

Returning only after his resurrection.

Jesus altered his trajectory

And began his final ascent to Jerusalem.  

“Shush” he told them,

“tell no one about what you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

(Mark 9:9)

Jesus faced inevitable change

… suffered for it

… died on the cross for it

… rose from the dead for it

Because his deepest desire

Is to envelop

You and me and the rest of creation

With his love and grace.

There are many who look at American Christianity today

And draw rapid conclusions

 – about churches, denominations, emerging generations –

And where all of this is headed.

Blogs are loaded full of

“5 Points of a Healthy” this

and

“12 Signs of a Dysfunctional” that.

The transition from baby boomers to

X-gens and Next-gens

Is about as graceful or comfortable as passing a kidney stone.

For decades, we analyzed attendance trends.

We experienced declining numbers of children and youth.

Many looked at aging faces in regular worship

And imagine an empty building in little more than 10 or 20 years.

We knew change was inevitable,

We knew it had to come.

We just didn’t know that it would

Sweep our legs right out from underneath us.

Thank you, COVID-19.

The pandemic has undermined our confidence of faith.

We are terrified to pivot with Jesus,

To take a step towards Jerusalem.

We are terrified to trust in him.

Are we able to trust

That Jesus will lead us from the land of

Law and prophets

Into the land of grace and love?

Are we able to trust

That Jesus will lead us from the land of death and dying

Into the land of eternal life?

Can we trust that Jesus will lead us

From scarcity and austerity

To a place where his Spirit abides with us and in us,

A land of abundance and harvest?

Do you trust that Jesus is the source of all healing,

Including healing our world of

This despicable pandemic?

If Jesus is able to heal, cast out demons and raise the dead,

Why is it so hard for us to place our trust in him

For the revival of our church

And a renewed effort to expand God’s kingdom?

As we stand in the swirling whirlpool of inevitable change

Ask Jesus to ease anxiety,

Transform terror into faith,

Change doubt into belief,

Wash us clean of pessimism, and

Fill us with confidence

In God’s amazing grace.

We sing about amazing grace all the time,

It’s about time we believe it.

The post-pandemic Rush United Methodist Church

Is going to be transfigured into something

More awesome and Holy Spirit filled

Than ever before!

Let us pray that God uses this amazing grace

To help us embrace the inevitable changes that are coming

Personally, individually, to each of us,

In every aspect of life,

And the change that is coming to Christ’s Holy Church.

I’m confident

Where God is leading

It is being revealed.

Our future is going to be great!

Let us discipline our lives,

Prioritize faithful habits, and

Discern God’s will and ways are made known to us.

I don’t know what the Holy City will look like when we get there.

That destination may be

A heavenly feast,

Thousands in Sunday worship,

Or the completion of God’s kingdom of justice and peace here on planet earth.

This is yet to be revealed.

But if this is where Jesus is going,

I’m going to follow.

Join me.

Let us follow his lead together.

I don’t know why Jesus would love you and me this much

To turn towards Jerusalem and face the inevitable.

But I do know that it is okay

To simply accept Christ’s love

And place every ounce of your trust in him.

If there was certainty,

It wouldn’t be called faith.

Place your trust in Jesus.

Let us overcome the fears of today

And embrace the inevitable change that is coming tomorrow.

Let us join in the journey with Jesus

That leads to his Passion, death, and resurrection.

Let us walk this lonesome valley with him to Jerusalem

Trusting in him,

Trusting his promise,

Trusting that he is bringing us home.

Amen.

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