8 Sunday C - Authenticity as a Disciple

Lk 9: Transfiguration at the bottom


From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1: Rash judgment on buying “Luxury items” with food stamps: A grocery store check-out clerk once wrote to advice-columnist Ann Landers to complain that she had seen people buy “luxury” food items—like birthday cakes and bags of shrimp—with their food stamps. The writer went on to say that she thought all those people on welfare who treated themselves to such non-necessities were “lazy and wasteful.” A few weeks later Lander’s column was devoted entirely to people who had responded to the grocery clerk. One woman wrote: “I didn’t buy a cake, but I did buy a big bag of shrimp with food stamps. So what? My husband had been working at a plant for fifteen years when it shut down. The shrimp casserole I made was for our wedding anniversary dinner and lasted three days. Perhaps the grocery clerk who criticized that woman would have a different view of life after walking a mile in my shoes.” Another woman wrote: “I’m the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps. I thought the check-out woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes. What she didn’t know is the cake was for my little girl’s birthday. It will be her last. She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months.” Today, Jesus advises us to leave the judgment to God and to show mercy and compassion. (Rev. Richardson).

2: Valuables in safe custody: In his little book, Illustrations of Bible Truth, H.A. Ironside points out the folly of judging others. He relates an incident in the life of Bishop Potter. “He was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations, he came up to the purser’s desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, ’It’s all right, Bishop, I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his valuables for the same reason!’” (Daily Bread). This is what happens when we make rash judgments. 

3: Don’t judge a book by its cover: Schoolteacher Dodie Gadient decided to travel across America and see the sights she had taught her students about, for the last 13 yrs. Traveling alone in a truck with a camper in tow, she launched out. One afternoon rounding a curve on I-5 near Sacramento in rush-hour traffic, the water pump blew on her truck. She was tired, exasperated, scared and alone. In spite of the traffic jam she caused, no one seemed interested in helping. Leaning up against the trailer she prayed, “Please Lord send me an angel, preferably one with mechanical experience!” Within 4 minutes a huge Harley drove up ridden by an enormous man sporting long black hair, a beard and tattooed arms. With an incredible air of confidence, he jumped off and without even glancing at Dodie went to work on the truck. Within another few minutes, he flagged down a larger truck, attached a tow chain to the frame of the disabled Chevy and whisked the whole 56-ft rig off the freeway onto a side street where he calmly continued to work on the water pump. The intimidated, schoolteacher was too dumbfounded to talk. Especially when she read the paralyzing words on the back of his leather jacket: Hell’s Angels. As he finished the task, she finally got up the courage to say, “Thank you.” Noticing her amazement at the whole ordeal, he looked her straight in the eye and said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” With that he smiled, closed the hood of the truck and straddled his Harley. With a wave he was gone as fast as he had appeared. (Rev. Jeffrey Stewart).

4: That person is me: C.S. Lewis wrote, “there is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.”

5.  Judgmental husband: There’s the story of the conscientious wife who tried very hard to please her ultra-critical husband but failed regularly. He always seemed the most cantankerous at breakfast. If the eggs were scrambled, he wanted them poached; if the eggs were poached, he wanted them scrambled. One morning, with what she thought was a stroke of genius, the wife poached one egg and scrambled the other and placed the plate before him. Anxiously she awaited what surely this time would be his unqualified approval. He peered down at the plate and snorted, “Can’t you do anything right, woman? You’ve scrambled the wrong one!”

6. “Go thou and do likewise!” After a minister preached a sermon on spiritual gifts, he was greeted at the door by a lady who said, “Pastor, I believe I have the gift of criticism.” He looked at her and asked, “Remember the person in Jesus’ parable who had the one talent? Do you recall what he did with it?” “Yes,” replied the lady, “he went out and buried it.” With a smile, the pastor suggested, “Go thou, and do likewise!”

7. Judge Not
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade..
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.
‘And why’s everyone so quiet,
So somber – give me a clue.’
‘Hush, child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.’

15 Additional anecdotes:

1) Mom with one eye: My mom only had one eye. I hated her… She was such an embarrassment. She cooked for students and teachers to support the family. There was this one day during elementary school where my mom came to say hello to me. I was so embarrassed. How could she do this to me? I ignored her, threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school one of my classmates said, “EEEE, your mom only has one eye!” I wanted to bury myself. I also wanted my mom to just disappear. I confronted her that day and said, “If you’re only gonna make me a laughing stock, why don’t you just die?” My mom did not respond… I didn’t even stop to think for a second about what I had said, because I was full of anger. I was oblivious to her feelings. I wanted out of that house and have nothing to do with her. So, I studied real hard, got a chance to go abroad to study. Then, I got married. I bought a house of my own. I had kids of my own. I was happy with my life, my kids and the comforts. Then one day, my Mother came to visit me. She hadn’t seen me in years, and she didn’t even meet her grandchildren. When she stood by the door, my children laughed at her, and I yelled at her for coming over uninvited. I screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!” And to this, my mother quietly answered, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address.” – and she disappeared out of sight. One day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house. So, I lied to my wife that I was going on a business trip. After the reunion, I went to the old shack just out of curiosity. My neighbors said that she died. I did not shed a single tear. They handed me a letter that she had wanted me to have. “My dearest son, I think of you all the time. I’m sorry that I came to your house and scared your children. I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you. I’m sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up. You see……..when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn't stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So, I gave you mine. I was so proud of my son who was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye. With all my love to you, Your Mother.” (

2) Things are never quite as they appear — sometimes!! A woman was flying from Seattle to San Francisco. Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sacramento along the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes…Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind…A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight… He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour, would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” The blind lady said, “No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs.” All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog for the blind! Even worse, the pilot was wearing sunglasses! People scattered. They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines! ( 

3) A brick hit his Jaguar XKE: (Chicken Soup for the Soul – 5th Portion. The story was written by Josh Ridker) A little while ago, a young and very successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only two months old. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and – WHUMP! – it smashed Into the Jag’s shiny black side door! SCREECH..!!!! Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted at the kid, “What was that all about, and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!” Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?”
“Please, mister, please. . . I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do!” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be OK. He then watched the younger brother push him down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE –a long and slow walk. Josh never did fix the side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention. . . Some bricks are softer than others. Feel for the bricks of life coming at to you. For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has positive answers.

4) “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them: A member of a monastic order once committed a fault. A council was called to determine the punishment, but when the monks assembled it was noticed that Father Joseph was not among them. The superior sent someone to say to him, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you. So, Father Joseph got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water, and carried it with him. When the others saw this they asked, “What is this, father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the error of another?” Source: unknown

Under the name of John Merrick, the movie The Elephant Man tells the true story of Joseph Carey Merrick, born in 1862 in Leicester, England. Within the first few years of his life it became apparent that Joseph suffered from deformities on his face and body. These deformities grew to be significantly noticeable, and tumors on his mouth affected his speech. His mother loved him dearly but died when he was ten. After leaving home, Merrick was unable to make a living and at 17 he entered Leicester Union workhouse. After four years in the workhouse, Merrick contacted a showman who agreed to exhibit him as the “Elephant Man” in carnivals. People would pay money to line up and observe him like some animal in a zoo. While on display in a penny gaff shop in London, Merrick met a surgeon named Frederick Treves who invited Merrick to the London hospital to be examined. Soon after, Merrick’s exhibition was shut down by the police and Merrick travelled to Belgium under a new manager. After being robbed and abandoned, he found his way back to London and into the care of Treves. Merrick was allowed to live in rooms at the London Hospital where he became a celebrity in London’s high society. Dr. Treves discovered that Merrick was in fact highly intelligent and sought to nurture his growth. Yet Merrick’s greatest hurdle was still to come. All his life Merrick had known only fear and rejection from women. So, Dr. Treves asked an attractive widow he knew if she could come into Merrick’s room, smile at him and shake his hand. When she did Merrick broke down into a ball of tears, later telling Treves that she was the first woman in his life apart from his mother to have showed him kindness. That was a breakthrough moment for Merrick. In the coming years more and more people, women included, would meet him and show him kindness. He began meeting Countesses and Duchesses. He even had many visits and letters from the Princess of Wales, forming a friendship with her. Throughout this time, Dr. Treves reports, Merrick changed dramatically. Merrick stayed at his London hospital room until his death in 1890. Merrick’s story shows us the power of love and acceptance. Rejected all his life, treated as a “thing”, it was the loving welcome of others that liberated him to become all he could be.  His life was made tragic not by his deformities but by the response people made to them. (Source: Reported at & Wikipedia).

6) The rejection and acceptance of a sinner: It was one of the most extraordinary birthday parties ever held. No, it wasn’t in a plush ballroom of a grand hotel. No, there weren’t famous celebrities, nor anyone rich or powerful present. It was held at 3 AM in a small seedy cafe in Honolulu, the guest of honour was a prostitute, the fellow guests were prostitutes, and the man who threw it was a Christian minister! The idea came to Christian minister Tony Campolo very early one morning as he sat in the cafe. He was drinking coffee at the counter, when a group of prostitutes walked in and took up the stools around him. One of the girls, Agnes, lamented the fact that not only was it her birthday tomorrow but that she’d never had a birthday party. Tony thought it would be a great idea to surprise Agnes with a birthday party. Learning from the cafe owner, a guy named Harry, that the girls came in every morning around 3:30 AM. Tony agreed with him to set the place up for a party. Word somehow got out on the street, so that by 3:15 the next morning the place was packed with prostitutes, the cafe owner and his wife, and Tony. When Agnes walked in, she saw streamers, balloons, Harry holding a birthday cake, and everyone screaming out “Happy Birthday!” Agnes was overwhelmed. The tears poured down her face as the crowd sang Happy Birthday. When Harry called on her to cut the cake she paused. She’d never had a birthday cake and wondered if she could take it home to show her mother. When Agnes left there was a stunned silence. Tony did what a Christian minister should. He led Harry, Harry’s wife and a roomful of prostitutes in a prayer for Agnes. It was a birthday party rarely seen in Honolulu – thrown by a Christian minister for a 39-year-old prostitute who had never had anyone go out of their way to do something like this and who expected nothing in return. Indeed, so surprising was this turn of events that the cafe owner found it hard to believe there were Churches that would do this sort of thing, but if there were then that’s the sort of Church he’d be prepared to join. Would Jesus call us blind hypocrites?

7) A worthless creature: In the seventeenth century France a humanist scholar by the name of Muretus was an ailing fugitive. When he presented himself to the medical doctors he was dressed in the rags of a pauper. The doctors discussed his case in Latin, thinking he would not be able to understand them. “Faciamus experimentum in anima vili” one said, which means “Let us try an experiment with this worthless creature”. Imagine their shock when this pauper replied, also in Latin, “Vilem animam appellas pro qua Christus non dedignatus est mori?”, “Will you call worthless, one for whom Christ did not disdain to die?” Source: Reported in Charles Birch, Regaining Compassion (University of NSW Press, 1993).

8) You can’t please everyone: Aesop’s Fable, “The Man, the Boy and the Donkey,” illustrates this truth! A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?” So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.” So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.” Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time, they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son? “The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. — “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.” []

9) No entry was ever made: People who are willing to complain about others in their absence are reluctant to do so to their faces. A preacher, capitalizing on this fact, devised an effective way of handling such critics. He kept a special book labeled, “Complaints of Members Against One Another.” When one of them would tell him about some fault of a fellow parishioner, he would say, “Well, here’s my complaint book. I’ll write down what you say, and you can sign you name to it. When I see that person, I’ll take up the matter with him.” That open ledger, and the critic’s awareness of his own faults, always had a restraining effect. Immediately the complainer would exclaim, “Oh, no, I couldn’t sign anything like that!” In 40 years, that book was opened a thousand times, but no entry was ever made.

10) The American blame game: We are a people who like to make excuses for failures. Nothing is ever really our fault. Think about it! From Creation, we have blamed others for our own decisions — Adam blamed Eve for enticing him to eat the forbidden fruit and Eve blamed the serpent. And we are still playing the blame-game. We are dysfunctional because of what our parents and grandparents did or did not do to/for us. The prisoner blames his parents for his illegal activity. Divorcees blame each other for the demise of marriages. Our children’s yearning for material goods is blamed on television. We blame school violence on the lack of prayer in school. Sex and Drug use among our youth is blamed on the Internet, television, and Hollywood. Sinful behavior is now being referred to as compulsive behavior and is blamed on chemical imbalances. Whenever we do something wrong, we are apt to point the finger elsewhere. Fingers are being pointed at the increasing Hispanic population as the cause of higher rates of unemployment. Declining neighborhood property values are being blamed on the increasing number of minorities. The Democrats and the Republicans blame each other for increase in taxes and for increasing the country’s deficit. We are a people who like to point the fingers at others for the problems we have to deal with. (Rev. A. LaMar Torrence).

11) Prejudiced isolation: David Suzuki is one of the world’s best-known campaigners for the environment. He is now a respected and highly regarded citizen of his homeland Canada. Many people are unaware however of the painful memories Suzuki has from childhood. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor and so Japan entered the Second World War. People of Japanese descent were immediately suspect in Canada. Within nine days of the bombing they were required to register with the authorities as “enemy aliens”. Their property was confiscated, their bank accounts were frozen and they were told they would have to leave their homes. David Suzuki was five years old at the time, and his parents were second generation Canadians…of Japanese descent. By the time David turned 6 he, his mother and his sisters had been sent to an internment camp in British Columbia. His father was sent to work on a road gang, rejoining his family in the camp a year later. The conditions were filthy and cramped. Toward the end of the war the internees were given a choice. The Canadian government would pay for them to move to Japan, or they could remain in Canada, on condition that they lived east of the Rocky Mountains. Japanese-Canadians were no longer welcome in the Suzuki’s hometown of Vancouver. David’s family chose to remain in Canada, destitute and in poverty. The entire episode left a terrible legacy in David Suzuki’s life. Proud to be Canadian he began to despise his Japanese descent and his Asian appearance. For years as a teenager he saved money for an operation to enlarge his eyes and dye his hair. He refused to walk down the street with his parents because he felt ashamed of them. His father drummed into him that to do well with white people he would have to be twice as good as they were. Even today Suzuki struggles with the past. He says “The terrible burden I’ve had all my life is that I seem to be constantly trying to reaffirm to Canadians that I’m a worthwhile human being. It’s really ridiculous to be 64 years old and still feel that you’ve got to prove to them that you’re not somebody who should be locked up.” (Source: Information reported in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine, April 8, 2000).

12) “Don’t judge others. Show God’s love to all you meet, because you don’t know their story.” With this, came the realization of how often I do unknowingly judge the people I encounter every day. I say “unknowingly,” because I don’t usually take the time to learn who people really are, or what they’re going through. Instead, I slap a label on them based on the little I can see on the outside. Let me explain. If she’s quiet, that mean she’s rude. If they cut in front of me in traffic, they’re a jerk. If she’s always smiling and laughing, she’s shallow, and has a perfect life. If he refuses to make eye contact, he’s hiding something. If she wears low-cut shirts, short shorts, and dark makeup, she’s wild and no good. But what if I knew their stories? Could hear their thoughts? Looked inside when they went home and let their guard down? Instead, what if it was…She’s quiet because it’s the anniversary of her dad’s death and she’s trying not to burst into tears. They cut in front of me because they just heard their family member was in a car accident and they’re rushing to the emergency room. She’s always smiling and laughing, but in reality, it’s just a cover-up for the pain she goes through every day in her bad marriage. He refuses to make eye contact because he suffers daily from PTSD and he’s afraid of letting me see the “real him.” She wears low-cut shirts, short shorts and dark makeup, because she’s deeply insecure, has been wounded again and again, and no longer believes she’s worth anything more than the amount of skin she shows. What if I knew all that? How would I act? How would we all act? Would we be more gracious, kind, and loving? Less judgmental and harsh? I love this quote by Mother Teresa. She says, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (By Sara Barratt).

13) Crab and the ocean: Once upon a time there was a crab. It was walking on the shore of ocean, leaving its beautiful footprint behind. The crab adored its footprints. Suddenly as the crab was adoring it footprints, the waves of the ocean washed the footprints away. The crab turned towards the ocean wave and said, “Hey!! I thought you were my best friend. Why did you do that?? Why did you wash my footprints away?” The ocean said, “A fisherman was chasing you, my dear friend, looking at your footprints, so I washed them away so that fisherman could not chase you.” It’s a general human tendency. We all judge each other in different situations and conclude about the person. Even in our relationship we judge the people by the actions or behavior. But it is important not to conclude about that person and react without understanding other person’s intentions. (Divya Nimbalkar).

14) Follow VFR-Visual Flight Rules: In 1999 John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren, had a wedding to attend in Hyannis Point, Massachusetts. Since John had his pilot’s license, they decided to fly there. Now John had 310 hours of flying experience, but not a lot over water at night. I suppose he must have believed he could handle it, though, and they set out for Hyannis Point. But the plane never made it to its destination and unfortunately all were killed. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found no evidence of mechanical malfunction in airframe, systems, avionics, or engine, and determined that the probable cause was “the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation. Factors in the accident were haze, and the dark night.” According to the National Transportation Safety Board, three simple letters resulted in the tragic death of such an influential young man, VFR-Visual Flight Rules. In essence, John Kennedy was flying that evening only by what he saw visually. For all he knew, it was a picture-perfect flight. But he made one very fatal mistake; he failed to fly by IFR-Instrument Flight Rules. If he had used his instruments and relied on them to guide his flight, he probably would have known that he was headed straight down into the ocean. The instrument panel is what identifies the truth. Pilots cannot depend on their feelings, eyesight, or the opinion of others. Those instrument gauges are the only reliable source for determining the airplane’s true position. That is why pilots who only fly by visual contact don’t like flying at night or in bad weather. Though most of us aren’t pilots, and therefore don’t need to know about airplane instruments, most of us here are claiming to be disciples or followers of Jesus. We claim and think our lives are headed in the right direction, but are they really? How would we know? What identifies true disciples who are going in the right direction? Can we depend on our feelings, ideas or the opinions of others to guide us to the right answers and in the right direction? No! Just as a plane has instruments to indicate its true position there are also the spiritual indicators or gauges that indicate our true position as true followers or false followers of Jesus. What indicators identify true disciples? The answer to that question is found in Luke 6:43-45. (Rev. Davi Elvery).

15) Refrain from making rash judgments. An engineer, a psychologist, and a theologian were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada. They came across an isolated cabin, far removed from any town. Because friendly hospitality is a virtue practiced by those in the wilderness, the hunters knocked on the door to ask permission to rest. No one answered their knocks, but, discovering the cabin was unlocked, they entered. It was a simple place–two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household equipment. Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove. It was large, pot-bellied, and made of cast iron. What was unusual was its location: it was suspended in mid-air by wires attached to the ceiling beams. “Fascinating,” said the psychologist. “It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb.” “Nonsense!” replied the engineer. “The man is practicing the laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin.” “With all due respect,” interrupted the theologian, “I’m sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning. Fire lifted up has been a religious symbol for centuries.” The three debated the point for several minutes without resolving the issue. When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling. His answer was succinct: “Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!” A Christian who lives graciously, understands that things are not always as they seem, so he seeks to refrain from making rash judgments. (Dave Mcfadden).

Lk 9: Mountain Top Experience: Transfiguration: From

Many of us have had them, those times when we felt like we were on top of the world, really happy, confident that we knew all the answers, could solve any problem that came up. Or we felt that we were really close to God, really in tune with God's plan for us. In those moments we were excited and alive, and everything seemed new.

The moment might have come at some exciting event in your life: graduation, baptism, your first kiss, your first day on your first job, your wedding, the birth of a child, even catching your very first fish. It might have been something really spiritual, like a week at church camp or a church retreat. Or it might have been something of a smaller, quieter nature, like a very intimate conversation with your father or mother when you felt that they honestly understood what you were saying and why you felt the way you did.

We call these "mountaintop experiences," and oh how we hate to come down off that mountain! We want to hang on to that moment for as long as we can. "Let's just stay right here and let the rest of the world go by for a while." But to freeze that one moment in time shuts off the possibility of the next moment.

In the Gospel reading for today we hear the writer of Luke give his version of the event which we call "The Transfiguration of Jesus"... 

     Sermon Opener - News Too Good to Tell

 Did you hear the story about an inattentive, workaholic husband who suddenly decided to surprise his wife with a night to remember? He went down to the department store and bought her the expensive dress she had been admiring. He bought her a large bottle of perfume to go with it. He ordered tickets to the Broadway play she had been wanting to see and made reservations at their favorite restaurant. On his way home he stopped by the florist and bought two dozen red roses which he carried home under his arm. Upon arriving home, he exploded through the door, hugged his wife affectionately and told her what he had done. "I just want you to know that I love you; I appreciate you; I adore you."

Instead of melting in the man's arms his wife started screaming at the top of her voice. "This has been the worst day of my life," she said. "It was awful at the office. We lost our biggest account; co-workers were obnoxious; clients were unreasonable. I came home to find the kids had broken my favorite lamp; the baby sitter is quitting; and the water heater is out; and now surprise of surprises, my normally sober husband comes home drunk."

Perhaps all of us are a little circumspect about surprises. If things seem too good to be true, they usually are. We even feel that way about our religion. Methodists, particularly, like things done with decency and order. So when the Bible starts talking about a transfiguration with radiant faces and glowing garments and visitors from the dead, we become more than a little suspicious. What is going on here? Would somebody explain it to us so that we can get it into our scientific minds? All along the question remains: Are we willing to let ourselves be engulfed in mystery, inspired by glory, transformed by encounters of a divine kind? That's what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about. Come with me today and let us take a little closer look.

I. The Transfiguration of Our Lord Is a Call to Prayer
II. The Transfiguration Is an Experience of Wonder
III. The Transfiguration Is a Response of Silence

     Even the Darkness Can Dazzle

To lead our exodus, Jesus had to die like we do: alone, with no particular glory. Otherwise he would have been an anomaly instead of a messiah, and it would have been hard for us to see what he had in common with the rest of us.

As it was, he died very much like those who died on either side of him, one of them begging to be saved from what was coming, the other asking to be remembered when Jesus got where he was going. Jesus could not do anything for the one who wanted to be spared, but he did a great favor for the other. He told him that the darkness was a dazzling one, with paradise in it for both of them.

I think it was something he learned on the mountain, when light burst through all his seams and showed him what he was made of. It was something he never forgot. If we have been allowed to intrude on that moment, it is because someone thought we might need a dose of glory too, to get us through the night. Some people are lucky enough to witness it for themselves, although like Peter, James and John, very few of them will talk about it later.

What the rest of us have are stories like this one, and the chance to decide for ourselves whether we will believe what they tell us. It is a lot to believe: that God's lit-up life includes death, that there is no way around it but only through, that even the darkness can dazzle.

Barbara Brown Taylor, "Dazzling Darkness," article in the Christian Century, February 4-11, 1998, page 1-5

     You Can't Stay on the Mountain Top

A little boy was out in his front yard, throwing a ball up in the air. An elderly passerby asked the boy what he was doing. He replied, "I am playing a game of catch with God. I throw the ball up in the air and he throws it back."

I am in no position to comment on God's ability to play ball, but I do know that whatever goes up must come down. There may be exceptions, such as Charlie Brown's kite! But as a rule, whatever goes up must come down. The process is so predictable that you could refer to it as a scientific law. The same process applies to our religious lives. It is a good thing to "go up" to a great experience with God, but we will become greatly disillusioned if we do not remember that eventually we have to "come down" again.

John Thomas Randolph, The Best Gift, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

     Humor: It'll Come Back to You

This preacher moved to a new Church. This particular church didn't have a lawn mower so he was looking for someone to either mow the lawn or sell him a used lawnmower. One day he saw a young man going by pushing a lawnmower. So the preacher asked him, "Hey, looking for a job?" The young man said, "Sure." It turned out that he was mowing yards and trying to earn enough money to buy a bicycle. This preacher was kind of young and didn't mind mowing the yard so he told the young man, "Look, I've got a 10 speed bicycle that I never ride any more. What do you say we trade the bicycle for the lawnmower."

Well, the young man was ecstatic. They swapped and the young man took off on the bicycle. He rode around the block and came back to see the preacher standing in the same place wiping sweat off his brow. The preacher waved the boy over and said, "Hey, I've pulled on the rope a half a dozen times and this lawn mower just won't start."

The young man said, "Preacher, I hate to tell you this but it's a special kind of lawnmower. You have to cuss it to get it to start."

The preacher looked at him and said, "Well, I've been in the ministry so long I don't think I can remember how to cuss."

The young man grinned and said, "Pull on the rope some more and it'll come back to you."

The point is this, we ought not stay on the mountain top so long that we forget what it is like to be in the crowd. Like Peter, we shouldn't forget that our work is in the crowds.


     Gladdening the Valleys Below

 God never meant us to live on the mountaintop. I wish the gospel story told you the next Biblical story after the Transfiguration. This next Biblical story is never included in the lectionary series, and I feel badly about that. Because the next story is the key to the transfiguration story. The disciples and Jesus came off the mountain, and they came right down to the bottom of the valley. They came off the mountain and they came down into the valley and they found a boy who was having epileptic seizures. The mother and father were enormously upset and worried about the desperately sick boy, and the little boy fell into a fire and burned himself. In other words, the disciples came down off that mountaintop right into the problems of real life. Home from a mountaintop vacation and into the real world at home. And the disciples discovered that God is also down in the valley and does not live only or even primarily on the mountaintop.

I like the quotation by Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian when he said, "God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God's desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don't live there. We don't tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below." The streams start in the mountaintops, but they come down to gladden the valleys below.

You and I experience the valleys of life. You and I both know what happens the next day coming down from the mountain. It is the real world and the real life. After Sundays of life, there are always Mondays. You know, the tough ones of life. God is with us there.

Edward F. Markquart, Mountains, Valleys, and Plains

     Slow Down and Listen

Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. He was snapping at his wife and children, choking down his food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated every time there was an unexpected interruption in his day. He recalls in his book "Stress Fractures" that before long, things around their home started reflecting the pattern of his hurry-up life style. He said the situation was becoming unbearable. Then it happened.

After supper one evening his younger daughter, Colleen wanted to tell him something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, "Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin' and I'll tell you really fast."

Suddenly realizing her frustration, Swindoll answered, "Honey, you can tell me -- and you don't have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly." He has never forgotten her answer: "Then listen slowly."

I can hear God's voice saying to Peter, James, and John: "This is my Son, listen to him! Slow down. Don't be so quick to move things your way, to shape the world as you see it Peter. Don't be so quick to climb the corporate ladder, to join the rat pack and be number one John. Don't try to beat your colleagues to the first position James. Slow down. My Son is trying to show you another way, another world, another kingdom. If you will listen slowly.

Brett Blair,

     Figuring Out The Transfiguration

Madeleine L'Engle, the great Christian writer, said we tend to avoid this story for the following reason, in her words:

The Christian holiday which is easiest for us is Christmas, because it touches on what is familiar. The story of the young man and woman who were turned away from the inn, and had a baby in a stable, surrounded by gentle animals, is one we have known always. I doubt if many two or three-year-olds are told at their mother's knee about the Transfiguration ... And so, because the story of Christmas is part of our folklore, we pay more attention to its recognizableness than to the fact that the tiny baby in the manger contained the power which created galaxies and set the stars in their courses.

She concludes by saying:

We are not taught much about the wilder aspects of Christianity. But these are what artists have wrestled with throughout the years.

William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company

     Keeping Alert 

In Luke's account, Jesus prayed but the disciples slept. They had fallen asleep. With their heads in the clouds, they drifted off into an unconscious state. Remember the story of Rip Van Winkle? He fell asleep one day in a quiet spot on the banks of the Hudson River and he didn't wake up for twenty years. When he went to sleep, the sign above his favorite tavern read: "King George III, King of England." He was a subject of the British crown. When he woke up, King George was replaced by George Washington and he was an American citizen. The tragic part was that he slept through a revolution. While he snored, oblivious to his surroundings, fantastic, earth-shaking events had taken place. This is what happened to the disciples. They were oblivious to all that was taking place. Don't be too critical of the disciples at this point. Many times we have our heads in the clouds, enclosed in our own little world and losing sight of the larger world, and sleep through great events. How many times are we preoccupied with our own self-importance? We become the prisoners of our own little world of trivialities. 

John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, Lima, CSS Publishing

     Mountain Top Experiences 

Fred Craddock tells a wonderful story about a young minister, newly graduated from seminary, serving his very first church. He gets a call telling him that a church member, elderly woman who has just given her life to the church, is in the hospital. She's so weak she can't even get up out of bed, and the doctors don't hold much hope for her recovery. Would he go up and visit? Well, of course he will and he does.

All the way to the hospital he's thinking about what he will say to this Christian lady, what words of comfort he can give her to prepare her for her eminent death. He arrives at the hospital, goes up to her room for the visit. He sits and talks with her a few minutes, just small talk really, nothing earth shattering. When he makes ready to leave, he asks if she would like him to have prayer with her. She answers, "Yes, of course. That's why I wanted you to come."

He then asks politely, "And what exactly would you like me to pray for?"
"Why, I want you to pray that God will heal me," she answers in a surprised tone of voice.

Haltingly, fumbling over the words, he prays just as she wanted, that God will heal her, even though he's not really sure that can happen. When he says the "Amen" at the end of the prayer, the woman says....