Astounded

Exodus 34:29-35

Luke 9:28-36

I believe the God we serve is all powerful, is ever creating, and ever present with us.  The images of God in the bright cloud surrounding Moses and in the illumination of Jesus as he stood with Moses and Elijah reflect that amazing, astounding, uncontainable power, giving us a glimpse of his holy power and glory, but inadequate to fully describe or explain it.

We are told that the appearance of Jesus was as bright as “lightning”  Lightning is pretty bright.  A bolt of lightning is one of the most powerful forces on planet earth, discharging 1,000,000,000,000,000 watts of electricity (1 trillion) at a temperature of 20,000 degrees centigrade (which is considerable hotter than even the surface of the sun)[1]

Yet I am often astounded, forced to stand in amazement, astonished and bowled over, sometimes flabbergasted, my world rocked, shock keeping me from taking it all in, or I experience surprise when God’s power manifests itself in large and small things in my life.

I think I’m in good company.  The disciples on this mountaintop were sleepy, not looking for anything much to happen except some time away from the crowds.  They came close to missing what was right in front of them, close to thinking it was only a dream.

Maybe their sleepiness is an extension of how often they missed the glory of Jesus when it shone right in front of them day in and day out throughout Jesus’ ministry  “The truth is that Jesus did not need to visibly glow to display glory.  His glory shined  – for those with eyes to see – Just as brightly when he talked to lonely prostitutes and outcast lepers, when he saved wayward tax collectors and offered forgiveness to people who had never heard a forgiving syllable their whole lives long up to that point.”[2]

The disciples should not have been astounded, but expectant.

I should not be astounded, I should be expectant.

Expectant that I will encounter the Living God in all times and places and that greater is One who is in me than the One who is in the world.  Yet I am astounded as I look at the stars on a clear night, witness the miracle of birth into and out of this world, when I feel the Holy Spirit filling me with the energy, understanding, and words I do not have on my own.

I am astounded in these encounters with the Divine.  Standing Face to Face, even if not eye to eye, with the living Triune God we love and serve.

Just as astounding to me is that God gets that we face times in our lives that we need that more direct contact with the divine.  Moses needs God’s power and those ten commandments to help lead his people into a loving God directed community.  Jesus facing the most difficult days of his ministry benefited from the reinforcement, encouragers Moses and Elijah.  We don’t know what was said, but they spoke about His departure.  These recognized giants of the faith pointing Jesus in the direction he needs to go and to encourage him that down that path lies the salvation of the world.

That he may have needed encouragement reminds us of His humanity, that he continued toward His departure reminds us of His Divinity.

It might astound you today if I said you will encounter the living God, you will be close enough to hear the voice of God, to touch the hem of God’s robe, to be transformed, and walk away with a glow noticeable to all.  You will.

You will experience it in each other.  In your smiles, your prayers, nudges, challenges,  tough conversations, as well as joy-filled discussions, shared laughter and shared tears.

As you come to God’s table, God’s presence is uniquely with us.  We come to experience the holy mystery of God with us in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection of grace poured over us through his love and sacrifice for us.  We are in communion with Christ Jesus and with all those who believe in this place, in this world, in this time, and throughout time.

It is a reality that really should never cease to astound us because it is more than we can understand more than the world tells us is possible.  When we come with a spirit of wonder, we are open to see the light shining into us and through us and to recognize God’s power flowing into and through us.

Peter wanted to stay on the mountain in awe of that light, even when the mission was clearly to go somewhere else.  He and we can’t stop here.  It can’t be contained in structures up on the mountaintop where we try to keep the experience going on the level of basking in its wonder.

We must go back down the mountain, go back to the places we need to look for God’s presence, where it isn’t as obvious as a light too bright to miss.  Moses was sent back to the people, taking the glow of God’s love and power back to help them live together as God’s people.  Jesus was sent back down the mountain to complete His mission on our behalf.  We are called back down the mountain to live lives reflective of God’s love shining through us.  We are called to listen to all He taught us.

We will be astounded at the ways our lives and the lives of others will be transformed when we do.

[1] Center for Excellence in Preaching February 25, 2019

[2] Ibid

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