Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Transfiguration Sunday

It's snowing. A lot. Both my visit and my evening meeting have been postponed for other days. So today was made my lectionary study day, where I look ahead to next month's lectionary readings and tentatively plan out my extended preaching itinerary. It usually works well. There are some really good ones coming up, including the prodigal son.

But before I get there, I have to go through Transfiguration Sunday. I sat down with Luke's version of the story recently and thought to myself, "What else could I possibly say about this story?" I used the well-worn "have the mountaintop experience, then go serve" bit last year. I've always managed to focus on Peter's misunderstanding the event, and I'm tired of ragging on the poor guy about it. Luke does have some notable differences, but I haven't found them notable enough to center a sermon around them. As the adage goes, "the preacher is the only one who wants to find out what happened to the Jebusites."

This Sunday is beginning to feel like the final hurdle to jump before getting to all the familiar reflective themes of Lent...what else is there to say? At least Songbird's recent post shows that I'm not the only pastor who feels this way. All things considered, it's a little strange that I feel this way considering that I have yet to feel weighed down by preaching the stories of Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost. So why is the transfiguration different? I dunno.

I did come up with one lead today. And it does have to do with Peter's experience of the event, but right before he opens his big mouth rather than after. Right before Peter speaks, he has the realization that this is something that he needs to remember; needs to digest; something to which he needs to pay attention. I think we've all had moments like can't put your reaction to something into words and you can't understand it fully, but you know that this isn't something you want to forget or pass by, and it's something you shouldn't ruin by trying to talk about it or mark it or ritualize it too quickly, if ever. Instead, you want to let it simmer for a while. You know that what is happening is important, but you can't name how or why just then.

The examples of that type of moment for me are all coming from the summer during which I was a hospital chaplain in St. Louis. I remember my very first week there when I shadowed another chaplain. We entered the ICU and entered the room of a woman on all sorts of machines. The prospect of her ever waking up seemed slim to none. The other chaplain invited me to say a prayer on the off chance that the patient would be able to hear it. I did okay for myself for a minute or so, and then just sort of trailed off. There were no words to speak; none came to me. She finished the prayer for me and we left. For me, being in that room was important, praying for the patient was important, but something else had begun to overtake me, something intangible, something I couldn't explain.

I need to find another example. This one isn't going to work.

But anyway, that's my sermon for Transfiguration Sunday. More or less.