Matthew 17:1-9 and Excerpts from The Open Door by Helen Keller
Sunday February 19th, 2023
Rev. Nicole Lamarche
Good morning and welcome again! It’s beautiful to see all of you and welcome those who are joining on the livestream. I invite you now to take some deeper breaths as you are moved, to let yourself arrive a bit more fully, as we each hope to hear, whatever word God has for us today. And I offer this prayer from Psalm 19 to help my nerves…
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
All I thought I needed was answers, to understand, know, to get it. When I left home at 18 to attend college, I really thought it was all about getting it right and at that time, I just knew I was right, but still I wanted to see. I was eager not just for answers to my questions, but for the prized idea of security that I was told would come with higher education.
And I wanted that desperately.
But it wasn’t too long before I started to become very confused. The more classes I attended and the more books I read and the more I heard and saw, I found myself encountering competing ideas and experiences. I met people and possibilities that I loved but were so different than anything I had ever before known. And I started to feel unsure and instead of answers, I kept getting more questions.
Because I didn’t want to mess up or ruin my chances of doing life right, up until then, I was genuinely someone who played it safe. I never missed a curfew and I never missed a day of school (Middle School). I only applied to colleges that I knew I would get into. And I thought it was all about getting it right!
But there was a time then that I started to feel unsettled. I wasn’t arriving at the answers I needed and instead more questions. And I became unmoored; discomforted by my own quest.
What if it isn’t about getting it right? Or being right? What if there isn’t even a way to do life right? What does that even mean? And what if security is an illusion?
Today is the final Sunday in our series: A New Dream for An Old Faith and we are exploring the idea that our spiritual journey is meant to be an adventure. I know many in the Christian Community claim that this is about the answers, about certainty, about coming up with what is needed to manage all of the chaos? But what if we are here on this planet right here, right now, just like this, to soak it up?
What if this is all meant to be an adventure? Yes, one without a map but one where our task is not to find the answers, but to be in awe, to soak up beauty, to fall in love, to take risks, to care for others along the way? What if our task isn’t even to get to a particular destination, but to taste it and share it and be changed by it?
The story we have from the Gospel of Matthew is one of my favorites. I think we should pay attention to the fact that some of the best stories in our sacred text happen outside of sacred spaces. Some of our most powerful and important moments in the arc of our journey are outside. Our buildings are often places where we try to contain things, so maybe that’s why he said, come up the mountain with me. We read that they were hiking together, making their way to the tall spot, when Jesus’ appearance changes. His face lights up. And the sun illumined his clothes, And then it says Jesus was dazzling. That’s the word used in our scripture. Jesus was dazzling. Jesus was dazzling as he stood there transfigured while his friends, Peter and James and John looked on.
The Greek word used for transfiguration, metamorphóō is the root of the English “metamorphosis” and this same word is used later in the book of Romans for the word transformation. And I read this story and I wonder if Jesus is literally showing them and us that part of why we are here, isn’t to get it right or to have the answers, it’s to go out and get it, go grab it, go be changed.
And then maybe as if to receive affirmation the pillars from the past, Moses and Elijah appear, and it’s all so good that Peter suggests that they stop right there and build little houses. Let’s just hold onto this! As if to try and contain it. And as one writer put it, “the suggestion to build three booths, or dwelling places (skh’no” = tent), sounds like an attempt to capture the moment, to preserve it for safekeeping, to domesticate this wild, frightening experience into an everyday, household encounter.”
But that’s not possible. So what if part of the point is that if we take our faith seriously, is letting go of the need to domesticate it or contain it or secure it?
What if this is all meant to be a daring adventure?
That’s what Helen Keller wrote, “The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
I know that many of us long for answers, for clarity and maybe even certainty, but what if promises of those are in fact illusions anyway? As we heard, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…”
So what if our spiritual journey is meant to be an adventure without a map, where our task is not to get it right, but to be in awe, to care for each other? What if our task isn’t even to get to a particular destination, but to be changed by it? Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of the importance of us being moved by incredible experiences, being open to being shifted by new ideas and all that we encounter, even when it is something that weird and wonderful that could only be described as dazzling on a mountaintop, being forever changed by something amazing. She writes, “Revelation is a shocking gift of new sight that obliterates such distinctions, grabbing us by our lapels and turning us around, so that when we sit back down again and we see everything from a new angle.”
So what if we don’t need to know? It’s really hard for me to even ask! What if it isn’t about answers? Or even arriving some place particular? What if it’s about being grabbed by the Universe, turned around, eyes opened, heart expanded? What if we are here to go get it? To grab it, to soak it up, to love it, to share it? What if this is all meant to be a daring adventure or nothing? May it be so. Amen.
©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche