No Need for Hiding – August 6, 2017

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Sermon Preached by Jennifer Hudson, St. Paul’s Member & Lay Preacher
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Feast of the Transfiguration
August 6, 2017

Exodus 34:29-35; Luke 9:28-36

In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

When you wake up in the morning and the light is hurt your head
The first thing you do when you get up out of bed
Is hit that streets a-runnin’ and try to meet the masses
And go get yourself some cheap sunglasses

Some of us remember that 1980 rock song performed by ZZ Top. The singer tells of the need for a pair of sunglasses after a night of hard partying in order to function in the morning light. (Any of us this morning? Just kidding!)

Sunglasses are an interesting accessory. We use them not only to shield our eyes from the white light of a sun that could blind us, but also to alter our appearance when we want to go unnoticed or give a final accent to a certain look. My favorites are 1940s aviators in pink. Some like wire rims or black Wayfarers. Regardless of style, the donning of sunglasses involves hiding. Definitely from light. Sometimes from truth.

Revelations of light and truth—transfigurations, changes in form or appearance into an exalted or heightened spiritual state—are recounted for us this morning in Exodus and in Luke’s Gospel. I wonder if the witnesses to these transfigurations would have grabbed a pair of sunglasses had they existed in those days. Maybe the Israelites. After all, it’s clear “the light is hurt their head.” They’re so afraid that Moses must keep his shining face veiled. Peter, James, and John are in awe of Jesus’ shining face and dazzling white clothes, but grow terrified when the cloud of God descends upon them and hides Jesus from their view. A lot of fear—both of what’s revealed and what hides.

If mountains are where sky and earth—divine and human—meet, then I wonder if what the Israelites and disciples fear goes deeper: the reflection of our own divine origin and radiance. After all, both mountaintop events reveal the glow that comes from complete intimacy with God.

Perhaps the fear isn’t so much about the divine aspect of ourselves as it is the fear and shame of our falling short of it. We make mistakes. Lots of them. That’s part of our nature. But so is the truth that we are God’s children, made in God’s image and likeness.
It’s easy to forget that truth when we live in a world that is broken and hurting. We ourselves get broken and hurt time and again. And we internalize a lot of shame. Remember how Adam and Eve hid themselves after eating the apple?

Rather than let our true faces shine, rather than look at our reflected radiance, we prefer to veil who we really are, even with a pair of cheap sunglasses, because we fear we are unworthy of unconditional love. Shame makes it very difficult for us to see ourselves as God’s beloved.

Yet Jesus’ transfiguration points to how we might break the bonds of shame and shine along with him. As Jesuit priest and activist John Dear writes: “Every one of us can have a transfiguration experience at some point in our lives if we dare follow Jesus all the way to the cross and resurrection. The more we enter into the story of Jesus, the more we too will have a sacramental experience of hearing God call us God’s beloved.” 1

I invite you to think of transfigured experiences in your life. Don’t think you’ve had any? How about moving forward after a relationship’s end? Changing careers? Coming out of the closet? Overcoming a serious illness? Don’t these types of experiences alter us and reveal something of our true natures underneath it all? Something of light and good emerging from darkness and pain?

Transfiguration experiences invite us to share in the glory of a risen Christ. When we listen to Jesus and follow his example, the only way to be is true to ourselves, true to that divine spark that is also part of our nature. It is shining and radiant. There’s no need to hide. No need for shields. No need for cheap or designer sunglasses. Let’s just look and see ourselves the way God sees us: precious, radiant, and beloved.

1 Dear, J. (2007). Transfiguration: a meditation on transforming ourselves and our world. New York: Doubleday.p. 2.

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