eternal moments

Eternal Moments, Mark 9:2-9
(video below)

Eternal moments.  The birth of a child.  The death of a loved one.  A sunrise over the ocean.  A sunset over the mountains.

Eternal moments.  Those times when we understand what the essence of life is about.  New life made possible through forgiveness.  Hope made real through the presence of love.  The Mount of Transfiguration.  The cross of Calvary.  Faith in Jesus.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday after the Epiphany when we remember the path of the Magi who brought their gifts to Jesus.  Today is the Sunday prior to the season of Lent when we remember Jesus’ path to the cross of Calvary.   This is the Sunday when disciples of Jesus reflect on the eternal moment when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.  It was a moment that could only be described by the radiance of God’s presence shining through Jesus.  It was a moment that could only be understood as the sound of God’s voice was heard and the disciples were instructed to listen to Jesus.  An eternal moment defined in today’s scripture reading as Peter, James and John hear God’s voice and then see Jesus only.

Eternal moments.  The birth of a child.  The death of a loved one.  A sunrise over the ocean.  A sunset over the mountains.

Eternal moments.  Those times when we understand what the essence of life is about.  New life made possible through forgiveness.  Hope made real through the presence of love.  The Mount of Transfiguration.  The cross of Calvary.  Faith in Jesus.

The Man Who Moved a Mountain is the story of Bob Childress who lived in the mountains of Virginia during the first half of the twentieth century.  Being a mountain man, Bob had grown up in difficult circumstances with fighting and drinking as a way of life.  At the age of 21, Bob married a woman named Pearl as they eloped to a Methodist parsonage down in the valley to get married.  In time, through Pearl’s loving gentleness, Bob overcame his pattern of drinking and fighting.  Eventually, Bob and Pearl had a son and a daughter.  All seemed right with the world as Bob began to attend church services and wonder in the presence of God’s goodness that was bringing order and peace to his life.

The Spanish flu epidemic broke out in Virginia during World War I.  Unfortunately, the flu, strange to the mountains, found Pearl defenseless, and she died within a few days of contracting it.  In describing the agony of the moment in which Bob and his children found themselves because of Pearl’s death, Richard Davids, the author of The Man Who Moved a Mountain, wrote:

“Bob felt paralyzed.  He was worn out, body and spirit.  Pearl had given the joy, the sense of worth, that kept him from aimlessness and drunkenness.  Now, here he was, with two motherless babies.  He went into the woods, He thought of drink and its gentle forgetfulness.  He thought of suicide.  Up to this moment in his life, he had generally got what he wanted by persuading or working or fighting.  Now he was helpless.

“The first night he lay in bed between his baby girl, a year-and-a-half ole and boy, three-and-a-half.  The boy whispered, “Papa, are you there?”  ‘Yes, son.’  ‘Let me feel you.’

“Bob reached out his big arm and laid it over his son’s covers.  Then his daughter woke up and began to cry for her mother, and the boy joined in.  Bob patted them both.  Then he too began crying and right away the children dropped off to sleep.

“More weary than reverent, Bob found himself repeating the Lord’s Prayer.  ‘Our Father,’ he began dispiritedly, then stopped at the line, ‘Thy will be done.’  Not his own will, which till now he had somehow always been served, but thy will, God’s will … Perhaps when his own will could do nothing, he should let God do the planning.  A surge of peace came over him … and he slept.”
31-39, The Man Who Moved a Mountain, Richard Davids

Eternal moments.  The birth of a child.  The death of a loved one.  A sunrise over the ocean.  A sunset over the mountains.

Eternal moments.  Those times when we understand what the essence of life is about.  New life made possible through forgiveness.  Hope made real through the presence of love.  The Mount of Transfiguration.  The cross of Calvary.  Faith in Jesus.

Peter, James, and John found themselves in an eternal moment.   There was no question about the presence of God that shone through Jesus.  It was such a wondrous experience that Peter suggested they should build three booths for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus.  What Peter was suggesting was that they should never leave the moment in which they found themselves, but that was not what the Transfiguration of Jesus was about.  Staying in the present moment is not what eternal moments are about.

Eternal moments are about moving forward in life by moving forward in trusting in God’s presence in life.  The purpose of the Mount of Transfiguration was to help Peter, James, and John understand that God’s presence is experienced not only on the mountaintops but also in the valleys.  Not only in the light that guided the Magi to Jesus but also in the coming darkness that will guide Jesus to the hill of Calvary.  That is why Jesus instructed Peter, James, and John to tell no one about what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  Jesus wanted them to understand that eternal moments are not only found on mountaintops.  Eternal moments are also found in the valleys.  It is when we are able to live in the faith that guides us through both light and darkness that we are able to see Jesus only.

In her book, Praying Our Goodbyes, Joyce Rupp tells of a friend who wrote her a letter as her friend grew in the discipline of recognizing God’s presence in eternal moments.

“There is some resistance in me when dealing with my own pain and grief and relating it to God.  I have had two experiences of God being with me in my suffering of the past three years.  Part of me felt so abandoned that I didn’t want any part of hearing about God.  The other part of me knew of God’s care, love, and concern of those around me.  It was in that light that I began discovering the responsibility I carried for my own life – and that God wasn’t going to change events for me but would help grow through them.”
40-41, Praying Out Goodbyes¸ Joyce Rupp

Eternal moments.  Those times when we understand what the essence of life is about.  New life made possible through forgiveness.  Hope made real through the presence of love.  The light of the Mount of Transfiguration.  The darkness of the cross of Calvary.  Faith in Jesus.

On this Transfiguration Sunday, whether you are standing on the mountaintop or walking through the valley, God is calling you to see and listen to Jesus only as you grow through the enteral moments of your life.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

February 14, 2021


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